Coincidentally, this winter, Donald Trump in the USA and Nitish Kumar in Bihar will seek people’s mandate for another term in their office. If Trump wins, he will finish his constitutionally restricted second and final term in 2024. He cannot go for more than two terms or 8 years.
On the other side, Nitish Kumar, sworn in as the Chief Minister of Bihar for a record six times since 2000, would complete fifteen years (three straight terms) of governance, barring a short interruption. And if his coalition wins, he may go on for another 5 years.
Although, one would argue, a comparison of Bihar with the United States is like comparing apples and oranges, that wall of incomparability was removed a long time ago as the landscape in the studies of comparative politics expanded. Now, in a more globalized era and from the vantage point I’m in, the comparative perspective becomes not only possible but very desirable.
From that angle, therefore, one could see that both the USA and Bihar are headed for the polls under the shadows of an international pandemic, Covid19 and the threatening behavior of China.
In combating the pandemic, the healthcare systems in both the parts of the world have proven unequal to the task, primarily because, given the nature of the virus, a vaccine or a comprehensive treatment wasn’t available. Yet, both the governments of Donald Trump and Nitish Kumar have been subjected to criticism for not handling effectively the fallout of the outbreak. In the USA, being a large country, Trump could leave it to the states and the local counties; and, governors and city mayors have really done an excellent job of at least expanding the medical care facilities.
In Bihar, Nitish couldn’t delegate the responsibility to anyone except his own government. The government healthcare system, during the entire period of his administration, has been in tatters: The doctors on the government payroll are off running their private clinics. The government hospitals are undersupplied. Whatever medical supplies are there, most of them get pilfered with the cooperation of the lower level medical staff. As a result, the crowded private medical facilities have mushroomed and their price or practices are unregulated.
All these problems aren’t new; the deteriorating state of the healthcare system Nitish inherited is still continuing. His government has been incapable of bringing the healthcare system up to date forcing the patients, who could afford, away from the state to seek medical treatment. The rot in the system was because of corruption and lethargy among the ranks of officials hand-picked and protected by Nitish himself. No public official is ever seen punished or held accountable.
The handling of the pandemic and the crisis in the healthcare systems would definitely be an election issue for both Donald and Nitish.
America and India have had to deal with a resurgent and bullying China as well. Donald, who calls Coronavirus as ‘Chinavirus’ or ‘Wuhanvirus’, believes the 165,000 deaths (and counting) in America are traceable to the export of the virus from China. China’s direct complicity hasn’t been proven, but one thing is clear: the Chinese covered up the existence of the virus, locked down its own cities at the same time letting their people go to other parts of the world, and hoarded medical supplies. The enmity between America and China has been growing because of a variety of issues -- from geo-political rivalry to trade or tech competition. Many experts are worried about a potential conflict.
With the Chinese intrusion in the Galwan valley, India has also come under their direct military threat. Bihar was the first to pay the price -- the 16th Bihar Battalion, on 15 June 2020, sacrificed the lives of its twenty personnel facing off the Chinese.
It would be counterproductive if the U.S.A, China and India get embroiled in an active war; the economy of all the three countries have shrunk lately in the wake of the pandemic. Hope wise counsel will prevail; however, in history, nations have gone to war when one has grown enormously powerful and others were under acute economic hardships. Although both America and India have retaliated against China by means of trade restrictions, it’s not guaranteed America will remain a dependable ally of India.
In the midst of the pandemic and tension with China, talks of “mail-in ballots fraud” in the US and demand for a “poll postponement” in Bihar are growing.
It will be interesting to watch how Donald Trump and Nitish Kumar are able to sail through.
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.