Tasks Ahead in Bihar
The grand victory of the Grand Alliance of three parties in Bihar against the BJP’s well-oiled campaign proves that people could be weaned out of the mesmerizing spell of money, well-orchestrated propaganda and communal frenzy. But it requires hard work. And Laloo Yadav-Nitish Kumar-Rahul Gandhi combine were not found wanting when it came to perception of their rival’s formidable capacity to polarize the voters on communal lines.
It is no secret that caste loyalties work wonders in India, both overtly and covertly. In Hindi belt, particularly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, it evokes raw passions too. If the Mahagatbandhan has used it to its benefit, the BJP too cannot be exonerated from the blame of exploiting the communal passion what with its chief referring to beef-eating, jubilation in Pakistan, foreign origin of Ms. Sonia Gandhi et al. What really worked in favour was its capacity to put up a united face, matching every barb with hard-hitting jibes and complete refusal to show any chinks in their armour. Special cheer must be reserved for Nitish Kumar’s cool composure and Laloo Yadav’s magnanimous and bold commitment to stand by Nitish regardless of the post-poll seat matrix for the Alliance partners. In comparison, the BJP’s campaign was faceless with old warhorse Susheel Modi having been marginalized. Pretty much is known and has been discussed about the RSS gaffe on reservations which ultimately proved to be the ideological nemesis of the party.
Winning elections through alliances is easier than keeping the social components they represent happy for five years. Chief Minister Nitish’s mettle will be challenged in a State that has seen all-round decay during the last 50 years. Policies that could reinforce the glue that brings them together is not easy to find. Nitish-Laloo would be finding the task awesome. Even the two-thirds majority would appear an albatross around the neck as ambitious politicians and alliance partners would crib and grieve over portfolios.
In the Indo-Gangetic plains, parties representing the subalterns were united in removing those representing the dominant castes and classes, but have conventionally lacked a cogent agenda to uplift the social groups from the socio-economic morass. Nitish’s previous terms have shown some difference. His effort to rid Bihar of extortion rings, thrust to initiatives taking bijli, paani and sadak(electricity, water and roads) to the deprived habitations and bicycles for girls to pedal to schools have enormously contributed to his image as an effective helmsman. Now revival and effective management of cooperatives, easy loans for weavers, social housing, jobs to bring back lakhs of youth to the State from other metros across the country should be accorded priority. Education system will require some merciless wielding of broom to remove massive cobwebs that have given the State a lot of infamy. The development pattern should embrace the deprived among all sections and the narratives should rise over partisanship. The Government should maximize its reach to even the social classes not generally seen to be among its votebank.
The induction of two young sons of Laloo Yadav into the cabinet–one as deputy chief minister while another being gifted with three major portfolios–does not augur well for the nascent coalition. Dynastic politics is back from the front door itself. However much the BJP may be reviled for its communal politics, at least dynasty is still not in evidence in the Party anywhere.
Those who saw in Gandhi Maidan swearing-in ceremony emergence of a anti-BJPism axis on the national political chessboard, may perhaps be counting the chicken much before they are hatched. There is still not even a remote sign of a major pan-Indian party providing the opposition a major bulwark. The Congress is now too weak to be of any value for the purpose.
All these may be easier said than done. The tasks before Nitish Kumar are monumental and resources and talents minimal within the state. He would be tested at every step. One can only wish him success.