The Nitish mantra

Bihar jettisons caste

Bihar has half of Pakistan’s population, eight crore, and it is one of the most important states which affects Indian politics. The Jayaprakash Narayan movement that swept Indira Gandhi out of office in 1977 started from the state. The playboy of that period Lalu Prasad Yadav who ruled and looted Bihar at will for 15 years is also from the state.

Today, Bihar has emerged on the Indian scene and even beyond because the state elections have sent the message that Bihar has turned its back on crime and corruption. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has swept the polls. When he assumed power, his agenda was development and a decisive action against criminals and history-sheeters. After finishing his 5-year term, he has proved through the polls that the voter wants economic betterment and reliable security, not religious or caste slogans.

Not even once did Nitish Kumar and his Janata Dal (United) appeal in the name of caste — he is a Kurmi, enumerated among the OBCs. Nor did he allow the BJP, its ally both in the government and the front that fought election, to bring in parochialism, much less anti-Muslim bias, in the campaign. Nitish rose above the 100 castes in the state. The women had never voted in such large numbers as they did in this election.

Nitish stood firm when the BJP put its pressure on him. He did not ask Gujarat Chief Minister Narender Modi to participate in the electioneering. The Muslim electorate (15 per cent) appreciated this and voted en-block for Nitish and crushed the Congress which at one time looked at attracting them. The 2-1 judgment on the Babri Masjid has been considered by them as the Congress doing.

Ideally, Nitish would like to go it alone and part company with the BJP which rubs its fanaticism on him to damage his image. But more than two-third of seats which Nitish has won in the 243-member house has a large number of BJP members. It looks as if he cannot constitute the government with the support of his own members and, therefore, has to depend on the BJP. But the day is not far when he will have to jettison the BJP if he wants to throw his hat in the ring for India’s primeministership.

Nitish seems to be working towards a situation where he will be his own master and does not have to suffer the BJP. By the time the next parliament elections take place in 2014, Nitish would have more or less finished his task in Bihar. He would be available to lead the Third Force in the country.

The Congress is too steeped in corruption and groupism and the BJP in communalism and the RSS-dictated politics. India needs a party or, for that matter, a person who can help the country rise above caste, religion and regionalism. The way in which Nitish has vanquished caste through his progressive administration is what the nation is looking for.

Different personalities

Unfortunately, Nitish is part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which the BJP heads. The party’s candidate for the primeministership is Narender Modi. Both of them are so different that either of them can take the country to separate destinations, one towards liberalism and the other to chauvinism. Both are strong in administration and enjoy the reputation of cleanliness. Yet the primeministership of Nitish will mean a pluralistic society, the ideal for which that the Independence struggle was waged. The primeministership of Modi may take the nation to the pit of darkness from where it would be difficult to get back to light.

Nitish’s credentials are known. He is a democrat and secular person. The Bihar election has shown that he can bring back to the country the same wave of idealism and ‘parivartan’ (change) which JP brought and put the Third Force at the helm of affairs in New Delhi in 1977. It is true that Nitish has no cadre of his own. He depends on bureaucrats for governance. Yet when there is a wave in the country, the people become the cadre on their own as happened during the JP movement.

For that he will have to quit the NDA and come out on his own to harness people’s aspirations for a better and securer life. Since he has convinced the people in Bihar that he can turn a new leaf in their lives, there is no reason to disbelieve that he would not be able to duplicate the experiment in the entire country.

The lesson taught by the electorate to Lalu Prasad and his RJD is an example for other leaders and other parties. You can fool people for some time but not all the time. He got a chance for one and a half decades but he preferred corruption to cleanliness and was involved in the fodder scam reaching the figure of more than Rs 900 crore. He also concentrated on playing the Muslim-Yadav card. Little did he realise that the people want to improve their lot, send their children to schools and want relief from criminals.

The biggest drubbing is that of the Congress which has been reduced further in strength, from 9 to 4. What the party should realise is that the magic of Rahul Gandhi does not work. He should realise that a few remarks here or a fleeting visit there does not help in the long run. He has to prove his sincerity while talking about ameliorating the conditions of the poor. The mantra is development, not slogans, Bihar has shown the way.

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