New Delhi, Sept 16: Vikas Purush (Development persona), ‘Prime Minister material’, ‘progressive leader’ were some of the tags earned by Nitish Kumar during his tenure as the Bihar Chief Minister in the past decade. Even his stringent of opponents could not deny the vision of development he introduced in Bihar, the state which was earlier plagued by jungle raj, misgovernance, lawlessness and illiteracy during the four decades of Congress and Lalu Prasad Yadav combined.Also Read - Bigg Boss 7 Fame Kamya Panjabi Breaks Silence on Joining Politics: 'Not Hungry For Power, Want to Work'
Nitish was probably among the very few of those socialist leaders who came through the political lineage of Jai Prakash Narayan and actually contributed to the cause of social justice, rather than paying lip service to it. A Lohia’ite socialist, Nitish’s vision for Bihar was crystal clear: Upliftment of backward caste along with development. This was contrary to what Lalu Prasad Yadav practiced, under whose tenure the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) were ghettoized rather than assimilating them into the mainstream. Earlier Congress, then RJD only considered the backwards (along with Muslims) as merely their vote banks. Also Read - He Can Get Me Shot, Says Bihar CM Nitish Kumar on Lalu Prasad Yadav's 'Visarjan' Claim
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Turning the tides in Bihar following 2005 resounding victory
7 years after alienating with Lalu’s RJD, Nitish Kumar rode to power in the 2005 assembly elections. Although, he was in a coalition with BJP, the right-wing approach of the saffron party failed to erode the vision carried by Nitish. Thoroughly secular, his agenda was fixed on ‘development’ and ‘social upliftment’.
According to the report released by ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce in India), the GDP in Bihar since 2009 to 2013 grew at 15 percent. That is way above the national average. Better growth ensured a spurt of job opportunities. Between the period of 2005 to 2013, 8.1 crore industrial employments were made in the private sector.
The social indicators are equally impressive. The infant mortality rate came down to less than 1 per 1000. State government constantly employed 4-6 percent of the budget towards improving health facilities. More than 1,00,000 appointments were made in the primary education sector. In terms of law and order, the police force was increased from 57 per one lakh citizens in 2005 to 88 per lakh in 2014.
In terms of contributing towards the cause of social justice, Nitish followed the foot-steps of former Prime Minister V P Singh. “Almost 3.70 lakh children have been brought in the mainstream by Vidyalaya Chalo Kendra, 12 lakhs by Prayash Kendra, 1.41 lakh children of minority community by Maktab Madarsa Navachari Kendras, 85,000 children by Talimi Markaz Kendras and 6 lakh children of ‘mahadalit’ community by Uthan kendra and 3.77 lakhs children by Utpreran kendra,” Nitish claimed in a recent TV interview.
Projection of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate was unacceptable to Nitish Kumar. The Bihar chief minister felt that the ghost of Godhra was still travelling along with Modi, and it would haunt those who accept his leadership. He felt that aligning with Modi would alienate him from the Muslim electorates in Bihar who supported him instead of Lalu (validated by 2010 assembly results). Being the self-appointed ‘secular-in-chief’, he took the hasty decision to quit NDA, ending his 17 year long partnership with BJP.
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Ever since he deserted the saffron alliance, Nitish remained on shaky political grounds in Bihar. Running a minority government with an external support from Congress and RJD, along with an internal ‘mahadalit’ revolt pulled the brakes on his development chariot.
What if Nitish Kumar wins 2015 assembly polls…
First of all, Nitish Kumar has accepted a partial defeat by aligning with Lalu Prasad Yadav. Joining hands with the flag-bearer of jungle raj has severely dented his credibility. Running a cut-to-cut coalition government with RJD will nullify the success of development achieved in the past decade.
On the other hand, if he looses, the BJP will come to power which will nullify all the achievements made in the sector of social justice. According to renowned political scientist Yogendra Yadav: “The caste coalition of the BJP is 80 per cent upper caste, supported by the dalits and the lower OBCs. So the Dalits and lower OBCs provide the numbers and the dominant castes of yesteryear decide the direction, they’re in the driver’s seat.” Under any circumstances, the era of politics of social justice supplemented by development would eventually cease to exist.
Future of Nitish Kumar
In the last assembly, Janata Dal (United) won 111 seats. In 2015, they are subjecting themselves to the electorates of only 100 constituencies. This shows, that he is bound to lose his ground. Even if he forms the government with his foe-turned-friend Lalu, the alliance formed on the basis opportunism won’t survive long. Not to forget, it also has to carry the burden of Congress, the grand-old party which is embroiled in corruption to the core. He might turn into a Manmohan Singh like figure who personally was a honest administrator, but presided over a regime which was viciously corrupt.
The best course of action would had been to contest the elections independently with the risk of tasting a bitter defeat. Compromising with his vision could be an electoral face-saving act, but in terms of ideological politics, it was a suicide.