Like or Not, Bihar Has to Move On

The new face of the Bihar Assembly.

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Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, the socialist ideologue of both Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar, had famously said: “A live nation doesn’t wait for five years.” What he meant was that people had the right to revolt and throw out the government for good reasons without waiting for its five-year term to be over.

Bihar has just gone through a stormy election paving the way for the winner coalition to form the government. The majority of voters at the election expressed their preference to retain the leadership of Nitish Kumar. Those who wished to have a change in the direction of the state under a new captaincy were disappointed. Discussion on dynamics of election will keep going on.

Bihar must now move on with the elected government it has. For the system to be productive and successful, however, people’s strict vigilance and active cooperation are necessary. Lok Shakti (People’s power) and Raj Shakti (State power) have to work in unison for the state and its people to prosper. If people are dissatisfied with the performance of the government, they must use their right to agitate and have the government replaced.

On that note, the beginning of the new innings of Nitish Kumar has hardly been impressive -- indicating the trend that the business will be as usual. He restored his trusted bureaucrats mostly to their positions from where the Election Commission had transferred them. This shows Nitish has scant respect for an honorable constitutional institution and measures taken by it. At least one bureaucrat replaced was in that position for too long against administrative norms. Setting up healthy precedents is the obligation of a good democrat. Playing favorites through transfer and posting of officers is an old game of establishing politician’s supremacy that creates a lot of frustration in the ranks.

Allocation of such important cash-rich portfolios as health and road construction to the sons of Lalu could mean two things: either Nitish has given them an opportunity to excel and show competence or, they have been offered lucrative green pastures where they or their hangers-on could make money. As of now, Lalu keeps his minister sons in his wings under one roof, guides them and works as their Public Relations officer. He will undoubtedly be at his old game!

The CM’s announcement on prohibition did sound half-hearted and ambiguous, definitely not policy pronouncements that should come out of a cool discussion involving the opposition parties. What would be the socio-economic impact of a partial or complete ban on the consumption of alcohol, how will they be enforced, and a host of related issues must be thought through publicly.

As time goes by, Biharis will look forward to the implementation of all the promises made by Nitish on campaign trail. Included in the promises are: 35% reservation for women in government jobs; one thousand rupees monthly unemployment allowance to every educated youth; a bank credit card with four lakh rupees limit to every student and free wi-fi to every university and college. Easy said than done. It didn’t make any sense. Where was the justification for giving free electricity connection to every household or consumer even when they are capable of paying for it?

Nitish’s litmus test will be in taking the bull of corruption by its horns. His administration is credited with introducing legislation that enabled authorities to take over assets of public officials caught in proven cases of corruption. There were a few instances flashed in the media where the confiscated houses of corrupt officials were converted into schools. In Nitish’s ten years of stewardship, it’s not clear if that policy was universally, aggressively and equitably applied.

In the context of corruption and misconduct, the people of Bihar must legitimately demand of the government to present a status report on all the accused under trial or convicted -- including Lalu Yadav and Jagannath Mishra -- in the infamous fodder scam. In the cacophony of election campaign and power politics, it shouldn’t be forgotten that, along with serving jail sentence, Lalu had to pay a fine of 2.5 million rupees as well. Has he paid up the fine? If yes, what was the source of such a large sum of money?

In the eyes of the law, everyone must be treated equally and fairly. Bill Gates, the great Microsoft philanthropist (welcomed in Patna Dec. 6), would tell Nitish that just two months ago, Dennis Hastert, a 73 year old former Speaker of the US Federal House of Representatives had to plead guilty before the court and accept punishment for hiding the source of money he had arranged to pay as settlement in a school boy misconduct case. A Republican who led the House for eight years, Hastert was a high school teacher and coach when he committed crime in 1960s and 70s.

Rule of law must be beyond reproach.


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.

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