During the election campaign for the Bihar Vidhan Sabha (2015), two prominent fears were expressed against the Nitish-Lalu-Congress alliance. They seemed to be coming true within weeks of the formation of the Mahagathbandhan government. The first was that the capitulation of Nitish Kumar to Lalu Yadav would weaken his government and re-introduce lawlessness as was horribly experienced in the 90’s. The second was that the long-time foes Nitish and Lalu, or their surrogates, would start bickering right after they were able to form the government together. In both cases, Bihar would suffer immensely.
A string of murders of young engineers, and, according to an account, as many as 578 murders in nearly two months in the province will leave everyone convinced that Bihar is in a state of utter lawlessness. A news item published in this portal further represents the state of affairs in the capital city of Patna: A 55-year old businessman is beaten up by criminals on the New Year’s night and when brought to the main city hospital he dies of his injury because apparently no emergency medical services were available. Then, a 52-year old teacher was gunned down in another part of the city allegedly owing to a property dispute. The state government, obviously, hasn’t provided for the people an environment secured enough to lead a fearless life.
With regard to the internecine warfare between the two factions, the JDU and the RJD, of the coalition government, the first salvo was delivered by Lalu’s men who thought Nitish was going too fast on the track of becoming Prime Minister of India. Lalu, in their voice, was a better and more deserving leader than Nitish as evidenced by the former’s popularity in the state election, his legal troubles notwithstanding.
Nitish’s men who appeared to lie low first reacted when Lalu admonished the CM to give the bureaucracy (particularly the police) a free hand in dealing with the criminals. This confirmed the tie up that has been going strong between the politicians, criminals and the administration. In the meantime, Pappu Yadav, a crime veteran MP representing Madhepura, alleged that the mafia who took the lives of the two engineers in Darbhanga was a protégé of the local politicians favored by Nitish. Lalu in his statements also exhibited complete familiarity with the criminal gangs who partly operated from their bases in Nepal implying politicians were their patrons..
The surrogates of Nitish Kumar shot back saying that the CM didn’t need lectures on how to run the government because he had a better standing in the administration. Then came another attack on Nitish from the RJD leader, Raghuvansh Singh, who accused the administration of being tardy and inept. The Bihar government, according to him, didn’t act on time to secure federal grants against drought in the state.
To add to the color of the Bihari political-ministerial theater, another controversy was created by Lalu’s visit to a city hospital in Patna. The surprise tour assumed importance because the BJP raised the question as to how powerful and interfering Lalu was in the administration. Besides being an elder partner in the coalition, Lalu is the father of the two ministers at number two and three in the government with important portfolios. Forces opposed to Lalu have already been making noises that Lalu was the super-chief minister and Nitish had no alternative but to buckle under his pressure.
In less than sixty days of the new government, therefore, no dearth of controversies. Some of them are because of the sheer contradictions and incompetence, but many of them are deliberate designed to distract the attention of the unquestioning citizens of Bihar.
The politicians have begun preparing the ground to point the accusing finger at the other when the term ends, or may be, before that. It’s true Lalu will be the de facto number one or number two in the government: Nitish paved the way for that and the voters have cynically put their seal of approval. Lalu is well aware that his two minister sons are thoroughly incompetent and undeserving and his father’s instinct will bring him to their aid and rescue. His public relations exercise began with the swearing-in of his sons. Lalu also knows the concept of real power.
The partners of the Mahagathbandhan government will have to bear in mind that they are collectively responsible for their administration’s success and failures. They have to work hard to provide fair, clean and efficient governance. Approaching from that standpoint, Raghuvansh Singh should have watched too if the Bihar government had not acted on time and must have alerted it. Then, there’s nothing wrong in Lalu’s taking unannounced visit to the hospital, everyone knows how pathetic the health care system in Bihar is. In fact, he should go to the schools where teachers don’t teach, and to the government construction sites as well.
The BJP, in its crucial role as the responsible opposition, will have to keep an eye on the governance and not so much on the inner politics of the ruling coalition. It has to be mindful of the party’s reconstruction from the village level up with a re-phrased message that is inclusive of the Muslims and others. Going alone by virtue of its own strength would be much preferable to aligning with the corrupt and discredited forces.
In the end, the political elites of Bihar must stop meaningless in-fights and be dedicated to offering a fair, clean and efficient administration. Bihar has to catch up with other advanced states.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.