“Bihar is growing at the rate of 10% in health, roads, power, agriculture and education sectors under my stewardship”, claims Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar while kick-starting the election campaign for 2015 state election [read]. Do you believe him? Let me show the mirror. I visited my village in Bihar last year in 2014. My cousin picked me up from the Arrah railway station. Before taking the bus, he stood in queue at a nearby shop. I asked why are you standing in the queue? He replied, “Bhaiya, gaon mein bijli nahin hai, battery rent pe le raha hoon” (No electricity in village, taking battery on rent). When we reached the village, I saw another queue with people holding mobile and charger in their hands. “Bhaiya ji, tani hamar mobile charge pe laga da” (kindly put my mobile on charge). He billed Rs. 10 for full charging and Rs. 5 for half charging.
This is the situation in Bihar now. It is not that no progress happened here during last 10 years. Roads were built, law and order improved and many other key parameters improved when BJP was a part of the the Bihar government. But the current situation indicates the Bihar may again plunge into pre-2005 era when former CM Lalu Yadav misruled Bihar for more than a decade. Before I say anything on the current situation, let me first give you a glimpse of my Bihar experience during my growing days.
I’m a Bihari by birth, by heart and soul. I was born and brought up in Bihar during my initial days. My father was working in Army in 80s at Danapur, army head quarter (near Patna). He served in Army for about 20 years in Bihar. After retirement in 1983, he moved to Orissa to do another government job. Vivid memories of my childhood spent in my village are still fresh and alive. Lush green agricultural fields, pakka water channels for irrigation, central facility for pumping water to fields… A happy place to live and grow. This was true of other neighbouring villages as well. Our family moved to Orissa in late 80s and I came to my village in 1999 after a gap of 10 years for my elder sister’s marriage. I was then studying in my final year of engineering in Orissa. What I saw in the village left me completely surprised. My village was completely changed. A deserted look was clearly evident everywhere. I went to my friend’s house with whom I used to play guli-danda. I inquired to his mother,”Sanjaiya kahan gayeel ba? (Where is Sanjay). “Naukari kare gayeel ba” (gone for doing job), She quipped. Job? Where? I probed further. “He is in Delhi”. In the course of the conversation I learned that he was working as labourer in some factory in Delhi. I then visited another friend’s house. The story was the same. All most all my friends had left the village for doing a job (read manual labourer). Many of my neighbors have sold their lands for survival.
"Biharis realized that voting on the caste and religious lines is not giving them anything in return. No water, no electricity, no jobs… Why the hell we vote for a joker who makes us laugh by his hilarious and senseless speeches during election but make us cry for years? It was this realization that put my head high".
In the evening, my mother went around the village for milk. She could not find a single family who could provide us daily milk on payment basis. It was not that the village had no cattle but the milk production was insufficient. One lady told, “Humani ke khatir hote naikhe ta tohara ke kaise de din” (milk is not sufficient for our family, how can we give you). And when my dad tried to bring milk from the nearby city, villagers suggested, “Mat jaayeen, raat mein khatra ba” (don’t go, it is dangerous to go in the dark). About 10 years back, our village was ‘exporting’ milk to cities. How come a prosperous village became so backward in a decades time? Ironically, our village (read Bihar) decline coincides with the accent of our beloved chief minister Sri Lalu ji. No jobs, no roads, no hospital, no college teachers, worsening law and order situation. Corruption was at the peak in every department. Kidnappings, extortion and murders were the order of the day. When corruption charges got serious, Lalu quit the post of CM but anointed his wife as the CM and ruled through proxy [read politics of Bihar]. Situation deteriorated further. By 2004, 14 years after Lalu's victory, The Economist magazine said that "Bihar [had] become a byword for the worst of India, of widespread and inescapable poverty, of corrupt politicians indistinguishable from mafia-dons they patronise, caste-ridden social order that has retained the worst feudal cruelties". In 2005, the World Bank believed that issues faced by the state was "enormous" because of "persistent poverty, complex social stratification, unsatisfactory infrastructure and weak governance".
During this time I was doing my PhD at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. This was the peak time when ‘educated’ students with ‘degree’ from Bihar were finding it difficult to get jobs compared to a Bihari labourer with no degree. Why? Corporate world has lost faith in Bihar’s education system. Mass copying during the exams was shown in live television channels. Vilification of Bihar was so high that I stopped calling myself Bihari. Many people changed their surnames. Many (doctors, teachers etc) left Bihar, sold their ancestral properties and settled elsewhere.
Our current CM Nitish ji came to power in 2005 with the help of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with a slogan to end “Jungle Raj”. It was a proud moment for me. I felt proud on Biharis not because they voted for a new government but because they at least realized after 15 years of misrule that ‘Jokergiri’ was proving too costly for them and their generations to come. They realised that voting on the caste and religious lines is not giving them anything in return. No water, no electricity, no jobs… why the hell we vote for a joker who makes us laugh by his hilarious and senseless speeches during election but make them cry for years? It was this realization that put my head high.
"Everything by this Mahagathbanthan seems posturing to fool around innocent Biharis. If they cannot stand together during election then how can Nitish work for development of Bihar? How Nitish will develop Bihar when one member party rants empty secularism while other member ignites and divides people on cast lines? How can Nitish develop Bihar when one member party indulged in ‘Scam raj’ and other in ‘Jungle raj’?"
And now, the same Lalu ji is poised to become a kingmaker in Bihar. Nitish Kumar, who got the mandate to govern Bihar with BJP in 2010 election, backstabbed BJP and hence, the people of Bihar before 2014 general election and joined hands with Lalu to form the government. When BJP announced Modi as chief election campaigner of NDA in 2014 general election, Nitish had no problems. But the moment BJP announced Modi as prime ministerial candidate, Nitish’s ‘secular’ rant and prime ministerial ambition became so shrill that he forgot why he was elected in Bihar. Secularism became his pet word. No talk of Bihar development. Only secularism rant that smelt appeasement. But the people of Bihar rejected his fake certificate of secularism and gave decisive mandate to Modi. Nitish virtually wiped out in general election. It was again a proud moment for Biharis. “Yeh public hai, sab jaanti hai”.
Sensing that ground beneath his feet slipping away fast and his own political existence is in danger, Nitish has to surrender his developmental work and hold on to state caste arithmetic: Muslim-Yadav combination and hence, the birth of so called Mahagathbandhan. This gathbandhan constitute Congress, Lalu’s RJD and Nitish’s party JD(U). Once staunch critics of each other and philosophically different parties, how come these parties relinquish their differences so easily to contest Bihar election together? Recent state elections in Haryana, J&K, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, where opposition parties fought election separately, BJP decimated them to form government. First time in the history of J&K since independence, BJP is a part of the government. Jharkhand was mired with coalition politics and unstable government since it came to existence. BJP formed government here of its own. The same parties in Mahagathbandhan campaigned in Jharkhand but people rejected their rhetoric of hollow secularism and voted for development instead. It is this fear that if they fight election separately in Bihar, they would be annihilated by BJP. Hence, coming together of these parties in Bihar may be seen as their mere survival tactics and any talk of development by them casts a big doubt on their intention.
"On the other hand, BJP governed states like Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, tops in the ranking in ease of doing business (World Bank Survey)...Bihar's development also lagged behind due to conflicts between Centre and state in the last 25 years. An excellent opportunity exist for Bihar to have a government of the same party at the Centre and in the state. Modi seems only hope for Bihar and India. Therefore, Biharis should vote for BJP if they want development, prosperity and most importantly, to bring back Bihar's lost glory."
Will the parties in Mahagathbandhan work together and work for development of Bihar after election? Let us first consider whether they will work together. One can see the trailer what is happening during the election. It is expected from the parties of Mahagathbandhan to show united front at least in public meetings. But when Rahul Gandhi addresses a rally, Nitish-Lalu skips the rally (read pdf, link) , when Sonia Gandhi praises of Nitish Kumar, she avoids mentioning Lalu, then Lalu skips her rally [read] and when Lalu addresses rally, Nitish Kumar and Rahul/Sonia skips his rally. When Lalu says,”Ye election Agla-Peechhda ka ladai hai (Bihar election is a fight between backward and forward castes [link]), Gandhis and Nitish kept mum. Why? Evidently, something else is cooking within this Mahagathbandhan. Everything seems posturing to fool around innocent Biharis. If they cannot stand together during election then how can Nitish work for development of Bihar? How Nitish will develop Bihar when one member party rants empty secularism while other member ignites and divides people on cast lines? How can Nitish develop Bihar when one member party indulged in ‘Scam raj’ and other in ‘Jungle raj’? And if Nitish has done development in Bihar, then why his seven sutras called Nitish Nischay still focused on basic amenities like water, electricity and roads? It is only a laughing matter when he said in a rally that by 2016, every home will have 24x7 electricity. Dear Nitish ji, providing 24x7 electricity is not a bucket of water, yahan se uthaya aur wahan rakh diya. It needs a chhappan inch ka sheena (56 inch chest). Has it been so easy, Biharis would not have been renting battery for electricity, as mentioned in the beginning.
On the other hand, BJP governed states like Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, tops in the ranking in ease of doing business (World Bank Survey). Bihar does not figure even in the top 20 list. Had the Nitish not stabbed BJP a couple of years back, Bihar could also have emerged as a business friendly state. A business friendly state means growth and job opportunities. But things have changed in Bihar now. Economic growth rate is declining, industrial sector’s contribution to state GDP decreasing, tourism is in shambles. And all these are an indicator that law and order situation in Bihar is worsening. Advent of another Jungle raj? Biharis have not forgotten those 15 years of Jungle raj and will not allow it to mushroom again.
Bihar's development also lagged behind due to conflicts between Centre and state in the last 25 years. An excellent opportunity exist for Bihar to have a government of the same party at the Centre and in the state. The dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would take the Bihar to the next level. Modi seems only hope for Bihar and India. Therefore, Biharis should vote for BJP if they want development, prosperity and most importantly, to bring back Bihar's lost glory.