Of ‘Grand Alliances’, Secularism, And ‘Development’: A Political Déjà Vu For Bihar?

Posted on October 17, 2014 in Politics

By Rahul Gaurav:

The much talked about ‘secular alliance’ between Lalu and Nitish, marking their reunion after 20 years, has finally shown a positive result for the former chief ministers of Bihar. The alliance bagged 6 out of 10 seats, with BJP reduced to 4 seats, from the previous 6 seats, in the recent bypolls. The result came as a respite for Mr. Nitish Kumar, 63, who resigned from the Chief Minister’s post, claiming responsibility for the national election (2014) debacle, which brought humiliating results for Nitish and his party.

Photo: Ranjeet Kumar
Photo: Ranjeet Kumar

An opportunist alliance

“In politics, there are permanent interests, not enemies”. The reunion of Nitish and Lalu truly justifies this political dictum. There has been almost no single public event in the past, where Lalu and Nitish have not taken a dig at each other. Nitish Kumar, in the year 2005, put a period to the Lalu era by registering a much awaited win in Bihar state assembly elections. JD(U) and BJP formed the government in an alliance, with Nitish Kumar as its Chief Minister, and Sushil Modi from BJP, as the Deputy CM. The NDA contested the Bihar legislative assembly elections for a second term in 2010, and won 206 out of 243 seats in the Bihar Legislative Assembly. Nitish again became the chief minister in 2010. But soon, there started developing a rift between the two, which snowballed into bringing the alliance to an end by the JD(U). This step taken by the JD(U) irked the larger chunk of electorates in Bihar, and as a result, they retaliated through their votes, and the JD(U) suffered in the national elections of 2014, winning only 2 seats. Nitish was quick enough to sniff the public mood, thereby declaring his resignation from the Chief Minister’s post. Not wanting to replicate the same results in the by-elections, and the coming state legislative assembly elections in 2015, he soon started making political calculations which could result in delivering the maximum possible gain; and then it was the first time in Hajipur, when with the Congress too hopping in and contesting the by-elections with the so called ‘grand alliance’, it was a litmus test of the alliance for the state assembly elections scheduled for next year. The triumph has undoubtedly boosted the confidence of Lalu and Nitish. It would be worth watching who gets what from this tactical politics.

Recalling the sordid past

Peeking into the political history of Bihar since 1990, the past RJD regime (1990-2005) is such that it won the unflattering sobriquet of ‘Jungle Raj’ in Bihar. Lalu Prasad Yadav became the Chief Minister in 1990, and held power till he was forced to step down after his arrest, following a CBI investigation into a corruption scandal. Lalu, then, brought in his wife Rabri Devi as the CM of Bihar in 1997, and continued to rule, till the state elections of 2005. By this time, Bihar turned into a completely dilapidated state, which left little or no room for people to anticipate any kind of development to take place in the near future. The state was burning in the flames of political and administrative apathy. Lalu, with his socialism, social justice, and secularism as political plank, garnered support from the OBC and Muslim combination. Here, social justice implied the empowerment of the backward caste — and almost exclusively that of Yadav’s, with Lalu himself being one among them. But who knew that this empowerment would prove so detrimental for a state which has never found itself amid murmurs on development and orderliness. Certain castes found themselves so empowered, that they had no fear of law and authority. The police force was slammed as powerless, and was massively demoralized. Power seemed to be vested in the hands of the interfering local RJD politicos, in crisp white kurta pyjamas and sandals, who would be seen meddling in administrative affairs. Cops became the mute witness to the flagrant crimes. Politicization of crime, and criminalization of politics became Bihar’s infamous insignia during Lalu’s era. Day-light kidnapping for ransom, and dacoity, boomed as a new lucrative industry, which left the denizens under a sense of high insecurity. People feared to go-out for work, and send their kids to attend classes and lectures, especially girls. Farmers from different ‘Un-empowered’ castes feared for their life while going to their field for farming, so they often resorted to grabbing of illegal firearms. Even the independent judiciary in Bihar got afflicted with Lalu’s ‘Yadav empowerment’, where even judges were intimidated, thus jeopardizing the institution.

On the infrastructural front, the story was equally unchanged. Their was not an iota of development that could be boasted of during the Lalu regime. Poor roads, and poor state of electricity was what Bihar witnessed. This can be summed up with the comment of Mr. Lalu, when asked about the poor connectivity and roads in Bihar. Mr Lalu commented – “Where are the vehicles?”.

It was only after 2005, after almost 15 years, that Bihar breathed with hope, a hope for change, with Nitish Kumar as the CM of the NDA government. With a given mandate, the onus was on the Nitish led NDA government to uplift the state from the dungeon of impoverishment, and from near anarchy. The initiatives taken by the latter did better the situation in Bihar, and its name in the later years started to feature as the ‘Bihar Miracle’, in the talks of dead tree, and the digital media. With law and order prevailing, people could breathe a life of hope. They now started anticipating a better future for the state. Bihar started recording a burgeoning growth in different spheres, and strict and undeterred law and order became the sine qua non for this development in the state.

But later, even this tempo of growth receded, as the alliance between the BJP and JD(U) ceased to exist, and the parties were found eyeing upon the coming elections in the state. The alliance coming to an end did hurt the sentiments of the electorates who previously came out from a darker phase finding themselves too desperate for changes, and this mood of theirs was reflected in the national elections in 2014. However, the recent by-poll election results in Bihar do raise a bleak possibility for the duo (Lalu and Nitish) gaining a significant political mileage in the state assembly elections in 2015. Moreover, this time, the onus is on the people of Bihar to decide the party to offer their support to, such that it doesn’t prove regressive for the state, and ultimately their own selves.

Fearing the Future

Though it would be too early, and too naïve, to make even an intelligent prediction about the probable results of the 2015 state assembly elections of Bihar, especially on the basis of the by-election results, which have often gone wrong in gauging the notorious mood of the electorates, but even making a wilder guess, let’s assume, if at all, the so named ‘Grand Alliance’ of the duo manages to register a win – then what would the road ahead be like, with the two representatives of backward castes juggling with the prevalent caste based ruckus in the beleaguered state? With Lalu in power again, can the natives of Bihar anticipate a political milieu, and dissociate itself from the group of the BIMARU states? Will the area of ‘law and order’ be left unattended by the politicians endorsing different castes? Can Bihar turn into a model state, where native people identify themselves as a ‘Bihari’, with pride? People of Bihar must rise above the caste based politics, and rationally elect their representatives, who address their just grievances and who dedicate themselves to the cause of development and prosperity in the state. The state has already bled much in the past, and the people of Bihar would certainly not like to get a feel of déjà vu in the future. One would surely not like the unpleasant part of Bihar’s history to repeat itself. Let’s hope and prepare for the best.