Patna: Given that “rozgar” (employment) has been the hot topic in the upcoming Bihar polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s evaded the issue in his first day of campaigning on Friday. From 15 years of Lalu-Rabri misrule in the state to the abolishing of Article 370 and development, the PM laid out most of his cards, except he seemed to have missed the one marked employment and livelihood opportunities at his three elections meetings. It has not gone down well with the locals, especially the youth.
It was expected that Modi would address the employment issue as the Grand Alliance’s chief ministerial candidate, Tejashwi Yadav, has directed his focus to employment for the youth in his election meetings. The move is being cited as the reason why he has been attracting huge crowds who bear witness to promises of providing ten lakh jobs if the alliance comes to power.
People questioned Modi for downplaying the employment issue. “Bihar is entitled to employment and entrepreneurship. Who can ensure this? Those who consider government jobs as a way to earn a bribe or those who are working to improve Bihar's ease of doing business and skill mapping,” the PM said.
Ritesh Rai, a youth, said Modi had no plans to provide government jobs and “he is now telling us that government jobs are a way to earn bribes. This is an insult to everyone trying for government jobs,” he added.
Modi did not mention employment in his election speeches in Rohtas, Gaya and Bhagalpur districts. He said that parties standing against the NDA were against the growth of the country and that the people of Bihar knew it was “important” to make Nitish Kumar the Chief Minister again for faster development of the state.
Modi also spoke about how opposition parties are promising a restoration of Article 370 in Kashmir and appealed to all to “go local” when they shop for festivals this year and promote local artisans.
According to an official BJP release, Modi will address 12 election meetings in Bihar.
“Modi avoided saying anything about employment as his government at the Centre and the NDA government in Bihar failed on this front. He has nothing to offer to jobless youth. We all remember it was he who promised two crore jobs a year during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and it proved to be a jumla,” said Santosh Kumar Arya, a college student from Patna.
Santosh said Modi was silent on employment despite his party, in its manifesto for the Bihar polls, promising 19 lakh jobs to counter the agenda set by Tejashwi.
Pardeep Kumar, a resident of Makhdumpur in Jehanabad district, said: “Modi should have countered the opposition’s claim that the NDA government failed on that front. Modi’s silence on the employment issue exposed one thing for sure: he has nothing to say to the youth.”
Manish Kumar Singh, a resident of Bhojpur district, said Modi deliberately did not address the issue as his government had “totally” failed. “Joblessness has increased, the youth are without hope as employment opportunities have reduced to a record low. The employment situation has worsened over the last five years,” he added.
Dr. Sambey, a resident of Bhagalpur, said that as Modi failed to fulfill the promise of two crore jobs a year, he skipped it. “Modi has exposed himself. He has concern for useless issues but not the youth and employment opportunities for them,” he added.
Danish Khan, a Gaya-based professional, said Modi and his party were again trying to divert the people. “It seems difficult as the opposition has made employment a major issue and it is likely to dominate the polls,” he contended.
A week ahead of the first of three-phase polls in Bihar, a strong sense of anti-incumbency against the CM is palpable. One of the major factors for this is rising unemployment in the state. Sensing the disaffection, Tejashwi Yadav promised to sign an order for ten lakh government jobs in his first cabinet meeting as CM if he comes to power.
Understanding that unemployment affects everyone, the RJD, Congress and Left parties have been raking up joblessness, reverse migration and the failure of the government to provide work.
According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s estimates, for the past 20 months – since February 2019 – the unemployment rate in Bihar has been more than 10%. It is one of the longest cycles of unemployment that the state has ever seen.
Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav also addressed election meetings in Bihar on Friday. Both attacked Modi and Nitish Kumar for failing to deliver on employment, migration and development.