Three Key Factors Pollsters Missed In Wrongly Writing Off NDA’s Prospects In Bihar Elections

M R Subramani

Nov 11, 2020, 08:41 PM | Updated Nov 12, 2020, 12:47 PM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 
  • For one, there are 63.95 lakh ration cards registered for PMGKY scheme in Bihar, of which at least 60 lakh had been utilised in October this year.
  • Even if we were to consider that a family has only two adults, at least 1.20 crore could have benefitted from this.
  • The Bihar Assembly elections has been done and dusted now with the National Democratic Alliance returning to power, thanks to the sterling show of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

    In the run-up to the elections as well as during opinion and exit polls, chances of NDA were discounted. In fact, exit polls all talked of an imminent exit of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

    Reasons for the talk of his exit ranged from the reported negligence of poor workers in the State who had migrated to other States for employment to mishandling of economy to anti-incumbency.

    But what poll pundits and exit poll agents besides the media forgot was to consider something that, perhaps, had gone under their radar.

    Probably, migration workers were affected by the pandemic and some of them chose to return to their natives by foot. The media tried to play it up as some sort of negligence by the Narendra Modi government.

    But the Modi government did take note of the hardships caused to the poor employees. It undertook a number of measures to alleviate their misery caused by the onset of novel Coronavirus (Covid-19).

    The Centre announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) to provide a safety net to the poor affected by the coronavirus. The package included issuing five kg rice or wheat and one kg of pulses free of cost every month to 80 crore beneficiaries.

    Initially introduced for three months, the scheme has been extended further.

    Besides, women holding Jan Dhan accounts were given Rs 500 each a month, and increase in wages under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee scheme were among things the Centre provided to the poor.

    The move to issue free rice and wheat under PMGKY seems, in particular, to be one of the reasons why rural Bihar has voted the NDA, particularly the BJP.

    With India carrying over 28.5 million tonnes of wheat from last year and aided by record wheat production of 107.59 million tonnes, the decision to allot free grains under PMGKY was a smart move.

    Not only would it help use the foodgrains be utilised to feed the poor but it will also save its wastage through storage.

    The free distribution of foodgrain under PMGKY was utilised well and flour millers complained that purchase of atta (wheat flour) had dropped sharply.

    In turn, it brought down wheat prices below the minimum support level of Rs 1,925 a quintal. But that was never an issue.

    According to data from Bihar government, there are 63.95 lakh ration cards registered for PMGKY scheme of which at least 60 lakh had been utilised in October this year.

    Even if we were to consider that a family has only two adults, at least 1.20 crore could have benefitted from this.

    Data also show that the overall usage of ration cards in Bihar in October was 34 per cent against eight per cent last year, a clear proof of the welfare scheme being used by the targeted sections.

    Similarly, the off-take of wheat has quadrupled to 64,600 tonnes this year compared with last year, while rice off-take has increased nearly five times to about one lakh tonnes.

    Going by these figures, the PMGKY allocation of foodgrain seem to have played a silent role in helping the NDA and BJP’s cause.

    Second, there is another interesting bit of data to show why Bihar preferred NDA. This is piped water supply to individual homes in the State.

    According to latest data, at least 80 lakh homes in Bihar across 40,880 rural wards have got piped water supply connection. This is better than even a State like Tamil Nadu which ranks below 25 in providing piped water supply to individual homes.

    Piped water supply in homes means women folk need not trudge long distances to fetch water. Add the fact that Nitish Kumar had closed liquor shops that made women happy, there should be no doubt which way they would have voted.

    Third, one of the measures undertaken by the Modi government to help the revival of economy hit by the pandemic was to pump more money in rural areas. Various projections have been made but at least 1.5 lakh crore has been pumped in the rural areas and many have benefited through direct benefit transfers (DBT).

    At least 57.57 lakh farmers in Bihar had registered under the PM-Kisan Yojana scheme that provides for Rs 6,000 a year for small and marginal farmers. Bihar is a State where many farmers are small or marginal.

    Of the total registered, at least 53.48 lakh farmers or 93 per cent of those registered had benefitted from DBT, making Bihar the eleventh-biggest beneficiary in the country.

    This again has played a key factor in the Assembly elections.

    Maybe, Bihar lacks jobs, lacks prosperity and development. But data show that the State has benefited from various schemes the Centre has implemented, particularly after Coronavirus set in.

    That has played a silent role to some extent in NDA’s victory in the Assembly elections. It was something that observers, media and pollsters failed to read, much to their chagrin.

    M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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