Narendra Modi’s Rallies in Bihar: A Primer Before Polls

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three visits to Bihar are now associated with three buzzwords: the DNA remark; the Bimaru comment; and the developmental package for Bihar. The Lalu-Nitish team tried their best to counter all the three messages coming out of the three well mobilized meetings.

How much will that translate into votes is yet to be seen. One fact that is pretty known to everyone in Bihar is that financial package or a particular program on paper is one thing but its execution on the ground is quite another.

In the month of May 2015, during my stay in Darbhanga, a lower level OBC activist cum petty contractor close to the politics of Nitish Kumar confirmed to me that the allocation of cut money on any sanctioned scheme begins from the CM’s office in tandem with the concerned ministerial department in Patna, down to the Junior Engineer (or, a clerk) on site. The commission ranges from three to ten percent. The contractor computes and gets ten percent over and above the ten percent already factored in for his work. No one speaks against this institutionalized methodology of corruption since everyone is happy. In the areas controlled by the Maoists or the mafias (the bahubalis), there’s further division of the pie. No one cares about the quality of the finished project or the corresponding expense.

This model works in practically every department of the government of Bihar. Even the voluntary organizations or civil societies receiving any genuine funding from elsewhere -- if their money has to be routed through the state government bureaus -- the cut money calculus has to apply. Naturally, all civic initiative towards voluntary works is discouraged, only the broker-manipulators survive.

This phenomenon of organically integrated corruption in the body politic condemns Bihar into a perpetual Bimaru state. And no radical change based on the electoral politics can be envisioned in the nearest future. Therefore, it would have been better for the Center or Narendra Modi to have some pilot projects financed and executed by the Center and to hold them up as shining examples of the achievements of the Modi government. But, this, again, could be a wishful thinking.

However, when the voters of Bihar go to the polls, they may well weigh the advantage of having the governments of the same party in both the center and the state. That may be a lot better than the querulous back and forth between the team Lalu and the BJP or the administrative logjam as exhibited by Arvind Kejriwal and the Lieutenant Governor of New Delhi.
There’s no guarantee that the face of Bihar would be considerably changed if the BJP is voted to power. Sushil Modi, the party’s most likely nominee for the CMship has long served as the deputy to Nitish Kumar. It can’t be asserted confidently that the cupboards of Sushil will be any cleaner than his former colleagues. But the citizens of Bihar will be justified in looking forward to a change.

If one looks at how democracies work around the world, it’s invariably found that one party’s government or leadership is replaced by the other major party in opposition. If for nothing else, it breaks the monopoly or monotony of one party or the leadership that tends to entrench itself. It provides opportunity to two leading parties to get better. The Delhi Municipal Corporation has also alternated between the BJP and the Congress. One of the reasons for Narendra Modi being a runaway success at 2014 Lok Sabha election was because people had become sick and tired of the two terms of Manmohan Singh’s government.

The results of the Vidhan Sabha election of 2015 in Bihar will be curiously awaited for a number of reasons and a strong case can be made out for the BJP-led alliance despite its limitations. This round of election will definitely show the mood of the state whether the voters would still vote along the beaten path of caste equation or like to tread a new course. It will also settle ideological questions.

In this context, the individual leadership character will also be weighed. To take the leadership of a bunch of second generation young BJP products from Bihar such as Sushil Modi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Jagat Prakash Nadda and many others -- they all belonged to Patna University and at one time participated in the Bihar movement led by JP. One may have differences with their ideology but, they will have to be appreciated for sticking to their principles and staying with their party.

On the other hand, there are so called leaders who not only boasted of the numerical strength of their castes or caste combinations -- and at the same time talked about eradicating casteism from Bihar -- but they changed sides and disregarded people’s trust.

Nitish and Lalu are the shining examples who were also products of the JP Movement, began their political career on Socialistic anti-Congressism; entered into a common front with the Jan Sangh-BJP to provide alternative to the Congress and then switched sides for the sake of power. Both Nitish and Lalu became courtiers of the Nehru-Gandhi Congress family.

Therefore, those who wish to see Nitish return to power for the third term or those who are currently debating whether or not to vote for his alliance with Lalu and Congress, may ask themselves the following questions:

1. Wasn’t the Jan Sangh an acceptable party in the late 1970's to have a common front with, under the leadership of JP, to fight the Congress and the Emergency; and work for a common cause?

2. Did the Socialist ideology or the anti-Emergency movement ever teach a student leader in Bihar to throw himself at the feet of the Nehru-Gandhi family that owned the Congress Enterprise? What persuaded Nitish and Lalu, except for the lust for power, to join hands with the Congress CEO Sonia and her soon-to-be successor, Rahul?

3. For Nitish, wasn’t the BJP a nice enough party to have an alliance with to fight out Lalu's dominance in Bihar politics rigged with unprecedented corruption and misrule?

4. What was the rationale or strength behind an alliance partnership (between Nitish and the BJP) that lasted for 17 long years and suddenly the relationship broke off about which the people had no knowledge?

5. In 2005, the Biharis voted overwhelmingly the JD(U)-BJP alliance to power to eliminate the evil influence of the Lalu-Rabri governance. In 2010, that mandate was renewed for five more years. The NDA was commanded by the people to work together for five more years. Why did Nitish break that people's trust in 2013? Did he explain it to the people who voted for their joint governance?

6. Is this true or not that until around the time of the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Nitish was allegedly engineering defection from the RJD and many RJD MLAs were crossing over the side. It’s worth recollecting that Lalu had to rush to Patna from Delhi to reign in his MLAs. What happened that suddenly Nitish embraced Lalu, accepted him as his elder brother and conceded to him the lead role on his side?

7. Did Nitish ever take the party parliamentary committee (if there's one!) or the party general cadre into confidence in 2013 before he unilaterally flouted the mandate of the general election of 2010 and dissolved the alliance? Did he ever take public opinion on this very important decision?

8. Nitish and Lalu are trying to whip up public hysteria in the name of Bihari pride. Will Nitish and Lalu answer why did they give the Rajya Sabha seats to K.C.Tyagi, Sharad Yadav, and Pawan Kumar Varma (all from outside Bihar) when such seats should have legitimately gone to their party worker-members from Bihar? Is this not true that they hire personal loyalists rather than galvanize sincere young party cadres based on ideology and programs?

9. Is this not true that Nitish and Lalu are trying to mislead the credulous people of Bihar by presenting to them a distorted interpretation of what it means to have a DNA in a man or woman?

10. For such a long tenure since 1990, could Lalu or Nitish do anything substantial to have better education or health care system in Bihar? Why students or patients go out of Bihar to seek specialized education or health treatment?

11. Why has Bihar not become an attractive hub of anything worthwhile?

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: and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.


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