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Saving Bihar From Jungle Raj

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By Sidharth Mishra

The turn of events in Bihar last week, which saw reinstallation of Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister, albeit with the support of the BJP, could not have come at a better time. The state, after having fought and overcome the ills of 15-year-long Rabri-Lalu Raj, was again slipping back into what has been called the era of “Jungle Raj”.Without going into the merits of the charge brought against Nitish Kumar of being politically dishonest towards LaluYadav and family, as somebody whose interest lies in the progress of the state, release of Nitish Kumar from RashtriyaJanata Dal’s cobweb for your reporter is good news.The separation of Nitish Kumar from LaluYadav, should also bring good tidings for erstwhile Prime Minister AtalBihari Vajpayee, who mentored him in his early days after he broke away from Janata Dal with George Fernandes; and the two together formed the Samata Party. George and Kumar became vital clogs in the formation of NDA I governments led by Vajpayee in 1990s.

In the year 2000, when the assembly elections took place in Bihar, Vajpayee chose Kumar to be NDA’s chief ministerial face ahead of the claims of BJP stalwarts like YashwantSinha, ShatrughanSinha and a bevy of other leaders. All through the decade long-struggle to oust Lalu-Rabri regime from Bihar, Nitish Kumar remained the spearhead of the campaign, with his past and current deputy Sushil Kumar Modi complementing his every step.
The 2010 assembly poll campaign saw excellent maneuverings by Kumar including the keeping out of then Gujarat chief minister NarendraModi from the campaign, raising issues of land reforms to keep the extremely backward classes and Mahadalits on his side, and negotiating a tough deal with the BJP on seatsharing. The combine came out with outstanding results and Bihar moved on complete a cycle of development, which had got initiation after Kumar took over as CM in 2005.
While a media so preoccupied with the dramatics, the wordy duel between Kumar and his erstwhile deputy TejashwiYadav made a wonderful piece of reporting, it failed to underline the pangs which Kumar-Modi duo must have felt at jeopardizing the political career of their former comrade’s child. A few months back while launching the campaign against corruption in Lalu Prasad Yadav’s family, Sushil Kumar Modi had bemoaned the fact that his comrade from the JP Agitation days had now also baptized his children in the art of corruption.
That LaluYadav is a corrupt politician has been established by the word of court. The charges against his children too are grave. Over the last three months BJP’s SushilModi persistently claimed that the Yadav clan had acquired ‘benami’ land and properties worth Rs. 950 crore.
Every corruption charge against the Yadav family first picked up by SushilModi was within a short period of time followed by the law Enforcement agencies such as the IT Department and the Enforcement Directorate, which swung in on the act to conduct raids. The most recent such action being the July 7 raids on 12 Yadav family properties. The consequent raids and the attaching of the properties, with court orders not only vindicated SushilModi’s stand on the issue but also strengthened BJP’s game plan to wean Nitish Kumar away from LaluYadav.
On the other hand the RJD leader dismissed the charges of corruption many times, though he failed to furnish any credible proof of his innocence. Instead, he claimed that he and his family were being targeted by the BJP because of his fierce opposition to the party’s ‘authoritarian and communal ideology’. LaluYadav plays politics on the strength of the unstinted support he enjoys of his community, among whom even the literate and better read are not ready to condemn his acts of corruption.
Nitish Kumar belonging to the Kurmi caste, which despite being part of the OBC mosaic is not populous enough to hold a leader on its own strength, in the past 10 years has built a caste-neutral political constituency of women. No wonder the mascot of the Prohibition Movement in the state is a woman - Girija Devi.
Belonging to the same Mushar community as Mountain Man DashrathManjhi, Girija Devi around the turn of this century started a movement in Chamaparan, yes the same place from where Mahatma Gandhi began his political journey for the nation’s tryst with freedom. An illiterate Musahar woman of a nameless Bhirkhia-Chipulia village under East Champaran district, Girija single-handedly createdawareness against the widespread addiction to alcohol in her community’s men folk.
The agony of Girija Devi was not limited to only the women of Mushar community. Every housemaid in urban Bihar had a miserable alcoholic wife-beating husband at home. The poor women in the state were left to either tend their own wounds or to the ailments which alcohol addiction brought to their husbands. Soon after coming to office in 2005, Nitish Kumar had started to work towards creating a following among women. The first step was giving 50 percent reservation to women candidates in Panchayat elections, which followed in 2006.
Pitched against the juggernaut of NarendraModi-led BJP and desertions from his own rank and file, Nitish during the 2015 Assembly campaign fell back on women voters. He promised them complete prohibition, they delivered him the state.
It’s this potential of Nitish Kumar to create a caste-neutral vote bank in excessively caste-driven politics of the state, which NarendraModi and Amit Shah recognized by first offering platitudes and then power on platter. Return of Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister with a ‘weather-worn’ SushilModi instead of a ‘fresh and talented’ TejashwiYadav as deputy is definitely good news for the state.
(The writer  is Editor, CapitalKhabar)

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