On Monday, October 19, in a general election, the Canadian voters threw out Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party Prime Minister for two terms (nine years). According to the majority of Canadians, Stephen Harper, going into his second term, had become very overbearing. He enforced his conservative policies, slashed down social services programs, favored wealthy to become more rich, denied environmental problems and suppressed dissent not only from the academic or scientific community but also within his own party.
The most remarkable aspect about Stephen’s leadership was his salivating greed to stick to power for the third term. For that reason, he didn’t facilitate the construction of a second-tier leadership that could easily take over the party after him. He had centralized the party operation in his own hands. A sizable chunk of his party, as a result, expressed dissatisfaction with his leadership.
Looking at Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, one can’t resist drawing a parallel, in many respects, with Stephen Harper. Nitish Kumar, like Harper, didn’t allow a healthy growth of his own party, turned the party into a one-man show, let his hangers-on become beneficiaries of his administration, and above all, salivated at the third term.
In fact, in several ways, Nitish Kumar exceeded Stephen Harper in bending principles. Stephen didn’t compromise with his core conservative ideology, refused to embrace incompatible forces and didn’t indulge in a propaganda warfare that pre-assumed the voters to be illiterate and eminently stupid.
Nitish, on the other hand, claimed himself as a Socialist follower of Ram Manohar Lohia, but embraced the Nehru-Gandhi family-owned Congress party representing forces most inimical to the Socialist principles. He vied with Lalu in paying court to Sonia Gandhi in the center to have the blessings of the Congress party. He expected his voters and supporters from Bihar to forget that he revolted and then stood up against the most lawless and chaotic Bihar administration (1990 to 2005).
Nitish wishes his fellow Biharis to be naive and unresponsive to the fact that his coalition with the BJP stood him in good stead for 17 long years: He had two terms as the Chief Minister and before that a stint as the central minister with Atal Bihari Bajpai. In 2010, he and the BJP received a renewed mandate from the voters of Bihar to govern until 2015. But for reasons, not explained fully yet, Nitish reneged on that public trust mandate and dissolved the alliance government in 2013. Now, he’s in the company of Lalu’s RJD and the Congress seeking the third term as the Chief Minister of Bihar.
As the election to the Vidhan Sabha is underway, the Bihari voters, like their counterpart in Canada, may legitimately ask Nitish why should he be given a third term. Or, like Stephen Harper, why should he not be thrown out?
In the current round of election campaign, Nitish repeatedly told his audience that he considered himself as the true disciple of Jaya Prakash Narayan. What could be the farthest from the truth? Once again, he takes the wise voters of Bihar to be exceedingly uninformed, uneducated and incapable of analytical skills -- this is so insulting!
Revered as “the keeper of India’s conscience,” JP was a follower of the Gandhian principles, kept himself away from power politics and was dedicated to building from the bottom up “People’s Power.” He was uncompromising in protecting the people from the excesses of the State power. He wanted the Raj Shakti (State power) to work with the People’s Power (Lok Shakti). He wouldn’t countenance the fundamental rights, freedom and liberty of an individual taken away at the same time he toiled for the upliftment of the poorest.
If Nitish proclaims himself as the follower of JP, even at this stage, he would renounce his pursuit of the state power and work for people’s power. He has been in the seats of power for so long; JP had declined Nehru’s invitation to be his deputy and dedicated himself to the Sarvodaya Movement. Nitish has the unique insight of everything that needs to be fixed in Bihar from both the perspectives -- the people and the State. He could be a champion of the people of Bihar (and one day of India) who were still reeling under the crushing weight of the corrupt system nurtured by the State. He should work for making the foundation of the Indian democracy strong, agitate for JP’s unfulfilled dreams of inner-party democracy and electoral reforms.
But alas, that’s not what Nitish would be. Nitish Kumar, the politician, the perpetual power-seeker, would resort to every means to stay entrenched. First, unprincipled alliance, and then from fielding of blemished-undeserving candidates to the use of a litany of propaganda rhetoric: DNA, Swabhimaan, Bihari vs. Bahari, and so on.
Wasn’t this appalling to find a sitting CM talking of the corruption on the other side when his own minister was caught on camera taking bribes? Isn’t this incumbent on Nitish, the follower of JP, to make people aware of the political filth that includes money-fueled bartering in the legislative seats. In addition, of course, the trade involved in government contracts and transfer or posting of bureaucrats.
Having recognized the true colors of politicians, the people of Bihar would, therefore, rise and speak up unambiguously. They would remind Nitish to not consider himself indispensable to Bihar just as JP advised Indira to not equate herself with India. For, Indira and Nitish are not immortals, but India and Bihar are.
Denial of the third term to Nitish Kumar will be an assertion of People’s Power.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). He has 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.