A victory of development

Updated: Dec 01, 2010, 18:39 PM IST

Saswat Panigrahi

Riding the wave triggered by “development”, the JD(U)-BJP alliance stormed back to power in Bihar with a three-fourth majority. Of the total 243 Assembly seats, the JD(U) and its coalition partner BJP managed to win a staggering 206.

But before understanding the nitty-gritty of numbers and percentages that constitute the landslide victory let’s try and decipher the reasons that led to Nitish Kumar being anointed as the newest mascot of development.

Ever since his victory, most commentators have hailed him for turning Bihar into a success story. His vision, determination and action to rebuild Bihar are indeed commendable.

Surely, Bihar has changed and Nitish has fit in as the prime catalyst to the entire process.

In 2005 Assembly Elections the state hoped for the change and hence voted for JD(U)-BJP coalition. In this election people of Bihar have recognised the change and hence voted back the incumbent government.

Bihar mein vikas jeet gaya hai. (Development has won in Bihar)”, the victorious chief minister said humbly in wake of the massive show of support by the people of his state.

Much water has flow down the Ganges in Patna in the last five years. Bihar was at crossroads when Nitish took over the reins of the improvised state. Situation was topsy-turvy to say the least but he promised a naya Bihar (a new Bihar).

A naya Bihar sans its negative image - a state which would stop making headlines for its poor infrastructure, where crime would no longer be a career option and kidnapping an ‘organised industry’… a state where citizens would not be forced to go elsewhere in search of prosperity and safety.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar started his work from the scratch with, initially, a two-point agenda - improvement of law and order and development.

And soon enough, the chief minister along with his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi were able to kick start a non-functional state.

The Economics

Coupled with a drastic improvement in law and order situation - kidnapping is no more an industry in Bihar and jails are not comfort zone for criminals - massive investments in creating infrastructure has ensured an upward swing in the state’s economy.

From 2004 to 2009, the state’s economy registered an impressive annual growth rate of 11.35 percent in sharp contrast to a mere 3.5 percent growth in the previous five years term.

The per capita income has been increased from Rs 7,443 to Rs 13,959 in between the same period. The state’s development spending on construction-related projects has grown from Rs 2,000 crore to Rs 16,000 crore per year. In tune with the economic prosperity the migration rate of the state has come down drastically.

The Politics

Nitish is being credited for awakening the Bihari sub-nationalism and the Bihari ashimta (Bihari pride). Caste seems to be losing its relevance in Nitish Kumar’s naya Bihar.

However, it would be missing the point to suggest that caste calculations are entirely out of the window.

The fact: apart from the focus on development, the mechanical engineer in Nitish Kumar did dabble in social engineering.

By forming new social group called ‘Maha Dalits’ (most backward classes) out of the existing Dalits, he tried to bring into the fold all those classes and subclasses who had been hitherto left behind during the first wave of social change.

With a whopping 35 percent vote share in the state, the ‘Maha Dalits’ turned out to be, as results suggest, the sure-shot recipe for success at the hustings.

With a measly tally of 22 seats, the lantern of Lalu Prasad Yadav seems to be flickering and his brother-in-arms Ram Vilas Paswan, with just three seats, appears to be headed for political oblivion.

On the coalition side, clearly, the Bihar election result has thrown some animated signals. Let’s read the figures between the lines and try and decipher the import of the Nitish Kumar-led NDA’s landslide victory.

JD(U) and BJP won 115 and 91 of the 141 and 102 seats they contested, respectively. In 2005 Assembly Elections JD(U) and BJP won 78 and 55 seats with the same seat sharing equation. This implies JD(U)’s tally has been increased by 26 percent in comparison to the last election while that of the BJP has increased by 35 per cent.

Undoubtedly, the improvement of tally of the saffron party - better in comparison to its coalition partner JD(U)), which was marred with internal rifts in the run up to the polls - has surprised many.

Apart from the Nitish magic – which undeniably worked in its favour too- the other reasons which seem to have aided in the stunning show by the BJP include the fact that the BJP contested the poll purely on development agenda.

Ably managed by two general secretaries – Ananth Kumar and Dharmendra Pradhan – who skillfully managed the war room, the BJP approached the voters with a clean slate - track record of Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Sushil Modi - that hastened the development work done by the coalition government.

BJP would be hoping to replicate its success in Bihar in other states, especially because it feels that the Congress is on the backfoot over corruption scandals that have rocked the nation, but the fact remains that they cannot claim to be completely “clean” given the Yeddyurappa taint.

Congress trouble

There are sound lessons for the Congress in view of its worst ever drubbing as it has managed to net only four seats.

The party needs to understand that poor organisation can’t be covered up by high-profile election campaigning by Sonia, Rahul and the Prime Minister.

Moreover, targeting Nitish Kumar on the issue of development seems to have backfired.

Challenges ahead

With this consecutive victory of JD(U)-BJP coalition has come the rising burden of expectations of the people.

Bihar is India’s least industrialised state. To set the speed of development Nitish Kumar needs to bring exponential investment and for that to happen, the new government needs to continue with its focus on infrastructure.

For industrialisation the state needs to allot land. Here Nitish Kumar needs to be extremely cautious. Hope, he won’t do a Naveen Patnaik by giving a go ahead to industries at the cost of livelihood of the people.

Other important challenges: concerted efforts are needed to tackle the acute power shortage in the state.

Moreover, keeping in view of the gap between the consumption of agricultural products and their production, the state needs to improve its agricultural productivity.

Nitish has history on his side, but whether he along with his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi – both products of Sampoorna Kranti (total revolution) movement launched by legendary Jayaprakash Narayan – would be able to bring in sampoorna kranti Part II in Bihar is something only time will tell. Here’s wishing them best of luck.