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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to voters to give the NDA another chance. Image Credit: Reuters

Patna: The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has finally played the “emotional card” as its last-ditch effort to win sympathy of the voters ahead of the third and final round of voting on Saturday (November 7).

Both Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have appealed to the voters to give NDA another chance. A total of 78 assembly segments spread over the Muslim-dominated districts in north-eastern region go to voting in the last phase.

Nitish Kumar, president of the Janata Dal United (JD-U) again projected as NDA’s chief ministerial face, has appealed to the voters to lend their support saying the 2020 assembly elections would be his “last elections”.

“Today is the last day of campaigning, and this is also my last election. All’s well that ends well,” the chief minister told an election rally in eastern Bihar’s Purnia district on Thursday evening. He then went on asking from the voters as to if they would vote for him.

Political observers said by talking about his “retirement from politics” the chief minister has tried to win sympathy of the voters who are very much annoyed over his handling of migrant crisis, lockdown disaster and the issue of joblessness.

According to them, the move is also an attempt to mend fences with Muslim voters who are upset at the way Kumar broke away from the secular Grand Alliance to form government with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) after getting their votes in the last 2015 polls and the way, his party, the JD-U supported the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Parliament after initially opposing in public.

In the last 2015 assembly polls, the JD-U which was a part of the Grand Alliance had won 23 seats whereas its other two allies, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress had bagged 20 and 11 seats respectively. What had worked wonders for the JD-U at that time was its alliance with secular RJD headed by Lalu Prasad which enjoys support of the Muslim community.

“But now that that JD-U returning to the NDA and the BJP raising the controversial issues of Citizenship Act and promising to throw out Muslim infiltrators from the region, the JD-U looks very nervous about getting support from the minority voters and is playing the emotional card. But, it’s very late now,” commented a political expert.

Kumar who addressed as many as 113 election rallies in favour of NDA candidates faced angry protests at around a dozen rallies while at one rally, the masses even threw onions and potatoes at him to register protest over the price rise.

What has made things further difficult for Kumar was the bizarre move by Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) headed by Chirag Paswan, son of Dalit politician late Ram Vilas Paswan, to field candidates on all the seats currently being contested by the JD-U. Although the LJP decided to go it alone this time, it has fielded candidates primarily against the JD-U candidates which, experts say, is sure to harm JD-U poll protests as it is likely to split the NDA votes.

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, has written an open letter to the people of the state urging them to vote for Nitish Kumar for “development of Bihar”. “I need Nitish Kumar’s government in Bihar to ensure that the state’s development is not derailed,” the PM said in an open letter saying development had taken place in all sectors.

Prominent candidates

Prominent candidates whose fate will be decided in the last phase include assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, Jan Adhikar Party president Pappu Yadav and 10 ministers and former ministers. A total of 1,204 candidates are trying luck in the last phase.

Criminals and millionaires

According to a report of election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), around 31 per cent candidates (371) contesting elections in this phase have criminal cases pending against them whereas 30 per cent (361 candidates) joining the fray are millionaires.

As per the ADR, the BJP and the Congress lead the pack with 76 per cent candidates in each party facing criminal charges, followed by the RJD (73 per cent), JD-U (57 per cent), LJP (43 per cent) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Miss Mayawati giving ticket to 26 per cent candidates from criminal background.

The BJP also leads the pack of millionaire candidates (91 per cent), followed by JD-U (81 per cent), RJD (80 per cent), LJP (74 per cent), Congress (68 per cent) and BSP (53 per cent), according to the ADR report.

Literacy levels

Of the total candidates in the poll fray, 552 are graduates, 499 have studied up to Class 12, another 12 are diploma holders whereas five are totally illiterate.

Migrant voters

Migrant voters are also going to be the “deciding factor” in this phase with all the 78 constituencies across 15 districts going to polls having considerable presence of migrant voters. Of them, two districts, Madhubani and East Champaran, have more than 100,000 migrants while their number varies from 36,000 to 97,000 in remaining districts. All these migrants returned home after losing their jobs as a result of coronavirus-induced lockdown, and their anger is likely to cost the NDA dear.