Will Bihar be taken off the BIMARU List?

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A Times of India report on the Gaya meeting of Narendra Modi (Aug 9, 2015) concluded: "The meeting ended with 'Har Har Mahadev' slogan raised by Union minister Giriraj Singh."

In the comment section of the same report, I wrote:

"The so called leaders/ministers like Giriraj Singh would make sure that election in Bihar is contested along communal lines and the RJD-Lalu team takes maximum advantage of this. Those who really want a change of guard in Bihar would like to see election fought on issues, programs and clean/deserving candidates. Elements like Giriraj Singh must be stopped from doing this. How will people react if a Muslim leader at the Janata Parivar rally yells at the end of his speech: "Allah-hu-Akbar"? Please stop communalizing elections and poisoning the politics."

Upon reading my comment, a reader responded rather angrily. To paraphrase his long diatribe, he said the citizens of Bihar would do to Modi what the voters of Delhi did to the BJP (reducing the number of MLAs to three). He seemed to be anguished at the fact that Narendra Modi assured he would bring Rs 400 lakh crores black money stashed in foreign banks. But he didn’t keep his promise.

Narendra Modi has also pledged that he would neither accept bribe nor let anyone do that: "Na khaaoonga, na khaane doonga." His partymen don’t seem to be following his lead.

In Delhi, the BJP controls the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Its leaders, the reader alleges, are openly taking bribe for allowing unauthorized constructions and encroachment on public land. Despite the High Court rulings, the unauthorized constructions and encroachment on public land have not been demolished. The narrow roads have choked the traffic preventing service vehicles and created pollution. 80% of the structures would collapse in the event of an earthquake causing casualties in hundreds of thousands.

Further, the DDA acquired land from the farmers and collected complete cost from the applicants but didn’t allocate them fairly. The plots were allegedly given to the group housing schemes after taking bribe from them.

At the end, the reader-respondent advised every Bihari not to vote for the BJP.

It’s a well acknowledged fact that the Delhi City Administration has always been alternating between the Congress and the BJP and both the parties - their men in power - have amassed wealth during their turn. With the introduction of the politics of the AAP, people’s attitude and expectations have now changed.

Coming back to Bihar, the Gaya rally of Narendra Modi on August 9th was reportedly well-attended. Skeptics may say Gaya is a well-nursed constituency of Jitan Ram Manjhi. He was made the CM by Nitish Kumar as a stop-gap arrangement, but was displaced once he (Manjhi) began showing some degree of independence. Nitish repossessed the chief ministership. The impressive turnout at the rally, therefore, could be indicative of the humiliation Manjhi’s constituents must have felt there.

As the buzzword from the Muzaffarpur rally was the DNA (remark) by Narendra Modi, the takeaway word from the Gaya rally seemed to be BIMARU. Narendra Modi promised that the BJP government, once installed in the state, would take Bihar off the list of the sick states. Bimaru literally means "sick" and as an acronym stands for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. After MP and Rajasthan, the BJP aspires to win over power in Bihar and UP. Expectedly, the Lalu-Nitish camp reacted.

In fact, after nearly ten years of the Bihar administration led by Nitish Kumar, Bihar continues to be a sick state in many ways: Its health-care system, education system from the primary to the university, cities’ administrations, their roads and safety, law and order situation or accountability of the government personnel -- all of them call for an overhaul.

The state was devastated so much during the Lalu-Rabri regime for fifteen years that whatever the Nitish administration provided - the roads, security or improved law and order - looked very bright.

The threshold of expectation for Nitish was very low. The first term of Nitish in collaboration with the BJP particularly gave the people of Bihar a breath of fresh air. The favorable media exhibited the statistics of progress and development.

The second term wasn’t so good even before Nitish broke away from the NDA in 2013. The deterioration in administration had already set in. Two illustrations will go a long way to show how the ‘bimaru’ Bihar has not recovered: According to reports, there are more liquor shops in villages of Bihar than milk or grocery stores. Secondly, Bihar is bracketed with Nepal where the largest quantity of spurious medicines are marketed and consumed.

Now, the larger question is: Once in power, will the BJP fulfill the expectations of the restless Biharis. It's claimed that there could be 50 to 60,000 first-time voters in each of the 243 assembly constituencies in the state. Once persuaded, they can certainly change the direction of the politics of Bihar. The parties would go after them with promises and purse. The BJP wouldn’t be found wanting in either of the two.

The vote base of the BJP in Bihar, as anywhere else, has traditionally been the Forward castes and the Bania (traders) and other business class. Collectively, the latter are not reputed to be the selfless, honest crusaders of the society. In addition, there are elements like Giriraj Singh and others who would scare the minority Muslims away.

There’s a vast constituency that is restless for a change of leadership and government in Bihar. They could be from any recognizable segment of the electorate. In this climate of rising expectations, will Narendra Modi be really able to take Bihar off the Bimaru list? But, before that will the BJP be voted to 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.


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