Bihar politics: The tale of two leaders
Er. Prabhat Kishore
Since three decades, the political power in Bihar is revolving around two personalities Nitish Kumar, a technocrat and Laloo Prasad, a law graduate. Both ruled the State directly or indirectly for nearly 15-15 years each leading the regional parties with the support of national ally BJP and Congress respectively.
Before pre-Mandal era, the two leaders worked unitedly and were termed as “Hira-Moti” by their well-wishers, and “Ranga-Billa” by rivals. Laloo Prasad elected as MP in his first attempt in 1977, but Nitish lost two consecutive elections and reached Vidhan Sabha in his third attempt in 1985.
After the demise of Karpoori Thakur, Ex-CM and leader of opposition, Nitish Kumar was instrumental in Laloo’s projection as leader of legislature party; although legislatures had advised him to project himself for the post, but he denied. He was also influential in Laloo’s election as CM, when Janata Dal came to power in 1990 Vidhan Sabha election.
When Mandal commission report was implemented by V.P. Singh government in 1990, aggressive anti-reservation protests were held by upper caste lobby under the leadership and patronship of Congress as well as BJP leaders. To counter anti-reservation protests, pro-reservation campaigns were started by backward and SC communities.
Outspoken Laloo took lead in pro-reservation campaigns and backward community of all castes rallied behind him. Soft-spoken Nitish lagged behind in this movement. The challenge of outnumbered backwards weakened the opposition. After becoming centre of power, Laloo initiated ignoring not only Nitish, but other non-Yadav leaders. He sidelined Nitish’s suggestions regarding development works, whenever raised and the situation became unbearable for Nitish. Laloo proclaimed “MY” equation as against earlier “All BC”.
The month long campaign and massive rally of anguished Kurmi Samaj on certain social issues on 12thFebruary 1994 at Patna and Lav-Kush (Kurmi-Koiri) Sammelans in the same year was an indication of resentment in non-Yadav backwards. Nitish realised that his time for challenge has come.
Split in Janata Dal took place in 1994 under the leadership of veteran socialist George Fernandes along with Nitish Kumar, Abdul Gafoor and others and Samata Party was formed.
In 1997, Laloo Prasad parted away from Janata Dal to form his own outfit Rashtriya Janata Dal. In 2003, Samata Party was merged into Janata Dal (U) to expand its mass-base. Laloo Prasad (7 years 130 days) and his wife Rabri Devi (4 years 360 days) ruled the State since 1990 to 2005 minus the rule of Nitish Kumar for 7 days and President Rule for 31 days; whereas Nitish Kumar ruled since 2005 uptill now, minus the rule of Jitan Ram Manjhi for 278 days.
In Bihar, the two personalities have their own merits and demerits. In pre-Mandal era, Backward class people were not united cohesively and the majority of small artisan and landless castes were not vocal. In 1979, Karpoori Thakur, the CM had to resign under the pressure of fundamentalist lobby, when he implemented reservation in the state services and educational institutions for backward class. Laloo was fully aware of the fact.
He demoralized not only upper caste political and social lobby, but their bureaucrats too and united backwards to fight for their cause. When BJP tried to destablise him after Mandal Commission implementation, he broke a fraction of its MLAs and repeat of 1979 like situation flopped.
In his first 5-year tenure, he experimented some innovative schemes like Charwaha Vidyalaya for working children, Construction of houses for poor, cleanliness programme in slum areas, Rainbasera for poor rickshaw-pullers and labourers in urban areas. After bifurcation of Bihar, he re-shaped 50% reservation to various socially depressed groups in a scientific manner.
During Congress regime, institutions were named &officialfunctionswere held to honor upper caste leaders only. Laloostarted these activities for Backward & Dalit leaders, too. Unlike Congress CMs, he occasionally visited in depressed classes areas & intermingle with them. These activities were just a miracle for people who had seen earlier CMs as a ruler & not as a leader and this established Laloo as a mass leader.
In second and third tenure of Laloo Prasad or his wife Rabri Devi, minimal works in roads/bridges, electricity production took place. Graph of Crime rose high up and rape, murder and kidnapping became a daily routine. Corruption in government department and board-nigams were deeply rooted.
After 15 years of power, only social awareness with hollow promises was not enough and people should have roads, schools, hospitals, electricity and other development works. On social forum he cornered himself from non-Yadav backwards. He could not develop a think tank, who can advise him for planned constructive and social works. Involvement of Laloo and other ministers’ in fodder, coal-tar and other scams tarnished his image. Slowly and slowly his Party was converted into a family coterie. His mass-base gradually deteriorated and ultimately in 2005 he was ousted from power.
After year long struggle when Nitish Kumar came to power in Nov. 2005, he focused himself on lawand order and infrastructure sectors. Fast track courts established for speedy trial of criminals, resulting in political heavyweight criminals Prabhunath, Anand Mohan, Shahabuddin (all Ex MPs) and many others to go behind bar. Himself being a technocrat, he re-oriented all infrastructure works and chalk out its time bound implementation and completion. Construction of Roads, bridges, school/college/hospital/police station/Panchayat buildings etc. took place in all corners of the state.
Production and distribution of electricity increased. Cycle/Dress/sanitary napkin/stipend/student credit card and other educational schemes resulted in decrease in drop out ratio. Technical and Medical institutions have been opened in backward regions. Drinking water to every house & metallization of drains and streets are in progress. Provision for 35% reservation for Women in recruitment, reservation in Panchayat for SC/ST/EBC community and reservation in judicial services have changed the gender as well as socio-political scenario. He organized yatras at regular interval to make aware with ground reality of the schemes& public opinion about it.
In addition to good governance, Nitish Kumar put his hand on social issues also, which are of no value for politicians. He made laws and started intensive campaign for public awareness against social evils namely dowry system, child marriage &alcoholism. There is often hue & cry over ban on alcoholism by the opposition and mafias, but actually this has decreased the domestic violence on women. To eradicate such evils, it is not the duty of government alone but society too. Plantation for conservation of environment at government as well as Party level has been his ambitious agenda. After 15 years, if one compares the ground reality, it itself tells the success story of changed Bihar.
In span of three decades, a generation has changed. They had not faced the anarchy and havoc situations as their parents or grandparents. The present generation’s bench mark is not as on 20-30 year back.
After division of Bihar, all mineral and coal areas as well as factories have gone to Jharkhand. The revenue collection is at stake, as south part in the State is draught-affected and north part is flood-affected. Central government not provided any special assistance after its bifurcation to cope up the situation. There is problem of unemployment like in other states. Having no factory in the State, there is limited scope in government service sector.
Educated youths do not want to work in farm sector, private sector or in the field of self-employment, but all want government job. Nitish worked day and night to accelerate the development works with limited resources whatever the State had. But dark face of democracy is that in elections, caste-oriented society does not keep in mind the development works and ultimately votes are being casted on caste lines.
In Nitish-regime a lot of works have been done, but a lot of work is still to be done. Racist fundamental forces in administration, who are grabbing depressed class interests, should be controlled. Small-scale and agriculture based industries have to be motivated. The rivers of north and south areas need to be interconnected. The ambitious 7-Nischay programme has to be intensified and properly monitored. Education, health, transport sectors needs more attention. Defunct sugar and other factories should be revived.
Since three decades, upper caste lobby is away from Chief-Ministership. Despite having population of only 13-14%, they had ruled the State for more than 40 years; so naturally they are feeling in exile. In so-called Modi wave, their dream is to install CM of their own homogenate group on the pattern of UP, HP, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Assam and other BJP-ruled states.
Like Laloo, Nitish are also pricking in their eyes. BJP, a Party dominated by upper castes, have supported Nitish only to keep hard backward-minded Laloo away from power. As BJP found Laloo weak, it grabbed influential seats from JDU tilting the balance in its side. Its core upper caste voters are openly working against the ally JDU. Liquor-Mafia, criminal gangs as well as TRP thirsty electronic medias all together have blown everything to dethrone Nitish.
Whatever be the ifs and buts of the two personalities, both have served the State in their own ways. It was Laloo Prasad who rolled and crushed the fundamentalist forces and strengthen political pitch for depressed masses; which also helped Nitish to bat and ball smoothly.
Nitish gave attentions to poorest of poor and kept himself away from caste and family based politics. One, the lawyer, is the symbol of social justice and resurgence; the other, the technocrat, is the synonym of development and good governance. Laloo and Nitish are strengths and weaknesses for themselves; but in power politics of Bihar as well as India, both are relevant.
(The author is a technocrat and an academician)