Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The break Nitish Kumar will rue

As long as the Janata Dal (United) remained aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party, Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan could be kept at arm’s length. By snapping ties with the BJP, the JD(U) will feel the heat

Bihar is passing through an unprecedented transition. This time it is imposed by the political compulsions rather by malfunctioning of the state machinery, which hitherto plagued the State on many occasions. The JD(U) and the BJP had changed the political discourse at the height of the RJD’s misrule together.

The end of the JD(U)-BJP coalition in Bihar has returned the subversive rhetoric to the forefront, which makes the present political scene in the State look like what it was in the 1990s. Back then, the Left and the Congress were in bonhomie with the RJD to fight the imagined threat to communal harmony. Although toothless, they will now do something similar in the Lok Sabha election to escape slipping through the cracks of untravelled political routes.

The Lok Janshakti Party’s Ram Vilas Paswan is too consistent in his own way. He has been a face of central politics, and his coalition choice will be decided according to which major alliance will have a better shot at Delhi’s throne.
Lalu Prasad’s son is another politician who was born into this role out of miserable cricket career and his father’s lack of trust in the senior leaders of his motley camp.

So, Mr Tejashwi Yadav is a poster boy and together with RJD’s old horse, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, they are struggling hard to make their presence felt on the rough political turf of Patna.

This is the state of affairs inside the opposition parties in Bihar. Their claim of giving the State a better governance model than the present regime is based on flawed raw material and reckless manoeuvrings. However, the three-dimensional polarisation in the State will give leeway to a certain extent to these parties. But assuming that edge too significant would be an over-estimation.

It is axiomatic that in isolation, both the JD(U) and the BJP will see the upcoming election unprecedentedly tough.
The division of votes and the lack of a natural ally for any potential coalition will haunt both the camps equally. Danger is looming large for another round of devastating political plays by the desperate RJD and the LJP. They will not prefer missing any chance to get back the State.

Development as a political agenda was not commonplace in Bihar before the NDA rose to command in Bihar in 2005. The feudal construct in the State significantly diminished in subsequent years. Besides, social and political changes fast-paced and Bihar performed remarkably well in economic sphere too. But in the changed circumstances now, it is uncertain that the erstwhile component of the NDA will be able to reap any benefits out of that success.

Another crucial factor is the rising expectation of the masses from the Government. This is a positive phenomenon and even if the State Government is being criticised for not curing all ills of public services, it should be seen differently. Recently, Bihar has overcome its chronic power crisis too, next in line with other visible developments.

But the improved infrastructure is not happening in crucial areas like education and industry, and on this count the people are genuinely angry with the incumbent Government. A lacklustre attitude towards industry is another sightable drawback that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Government has been afflicted with.

A casual attitude in the recruitment of teachers, doctors and other professionals is another disastrous move of the regime. When such moves were resisted, they were met with an arrogant response from the Chief Minister. Despite having a stable fiscal position, it is bizarre that Mr Nitish Kumar has no interest in avoiding such treatment to the educated unemployed.

The state of higher education is no less pathetic. Most students are still compelled to migrate for university education. The only improvement is the secured finances to many sick universities. It is not that moves were not made to improve the situation. But, wrongly envisioned, they met with failure. Surrounded with the wrong set of advisers, Mr Nitish Kumar seems to forget the pain of his people
Notably, these advisers come from different orbits and they hardly know the State outside of Patna. Those living in the State are acknowledging the welcome changes of recent years, albeit shunning the insensitive stand of the Government on key issues. As they vote during the election, their anger could impact adversely on the immediate prospects of the JD(U).

It’s time Mr Kumar looks beyond his statistical progression with developmental plans. He must recognise the excluded areas where his Government has failed to go far. Officialdom has its limits and Mr Kumar must not forget that. In the next few weeks, the scenario of alliances would become clear. Bihar will usher into a difficult phase. This time, it would be losing its ‘reformed politics’.
-Atul K Thakur
(Published in The Pioneer, on January7,2014)

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