Rasheeda Bhagat

Bihar, now a governance model

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on December 14, 2011

The Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar flaging-off the beneficiaries of national equal development (Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana) after presenting them bicycles , in Patna on Saturday.The scheme has been offered to the girl students of eighth & nineth classes belonging to scheduled caste & Scheduled tribe in Patna district. Photo by: Ranjeet Kumar   -  The Hindu

Patna:The Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar, launching website of Bihar Institute of Public Administration and Rural Development (BIPARD), in Patna. Photo by: Ranjeet Kumar   -  The Hindu

Patna:The Bihar chief minister,Nitish Kumar holding a meeting with District Magistrates to review development and law & order situatios through the video conference , in Patna. Photo by: Ranjeet Kumar   -  The Hindu

Mr Nitish Kumar's success in turning Bihar around has resulted in the clamour that Bihar's model of development and its anti-corruption measures should be replicated elsewhere in the country.

Life is all about imponderables and what was unthinkable a few years ago, can become the mantra of the present. This is all the more true of politics. Take Bihar, for example. Five years ago, if anyone with some knowledge of Bihar's ethos, its conundrum of caste politics and abysmal law and order situation, had suggested that the Bihar model of governance would one day be hailed for replication, he or she would have been considered loony. Ditto for somebody daring to compare the Gujarat model of development with that of Bihar, and deeming the latter a better standard.

The Nitish mantra

But one man has changed all that — the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Over five years, he successfully steered the Janata Dal (United)-BJP government through the stormy waters of coalition politics in a State where Muslims have a 16.5 per cent population, and managed to return to power with a landslide victory.

He managed this laudatory feat by stitching together a coalition of extremes, or a rainbow coalition, complete with the upper and backward castes, Dalits and Muslims. And the women of Bihar, who voted for his return with a hitherto unseen gusto.

The improved law and order situation in Bihar, coupled with the conviction of about 50,000 people during Nitish Kumar's five-year regime, was responsible for enthusing both women and Muslim voters.

Dr Shaibal Gupta, Member-Secretary of the Patna-based ADRI (Asian Development Research Institute) agrees that both women and Muslims played a major role in the return of the JD(U)-BJP combine. Across the board, there was patronage of Muslim voters for the coalition candidate, whether from the JD(U) or the BJP. “Where law and order improves and the State functions in a better way, the best impact is felt by women and the minorities.”

He adds that the convicted included the rich and powerful, including some from JD(U). Special schemes for women (50 per cent reservation in local body polls, free cycles for girls who pass Std VIII, etc.), conviction of the Bhagalpur riot criminals and compensation for victims, also helped.

Challenges ahead

Increased aspirations and expectations, however, pose even more dilemmas to any dispensation, and the JD(U)-BJP government in Bihar is no exception. The Bihar CM displayed the least exuberance at his victory because he knew it came with massive responsibility. Spelling out the challenges before him, Dr Gupta says that till now the development of Bihar has been “caste-neutral, in that roads and bridges were built and services improved. This benefited everybody. But now the Government has to bring in caste-centric governance, which will be a challenge.”

The first hurdle will be the long-pending land reforms that will take on the powerful zamindars of Bihar. Another challenge will be to contain corruption and the CM has already spelt this out by punishing some guilty civil servants. Now that massive sums of money are being spent from Plan outlays … “when instead of the earlier Rs 2,000 crore, Rs 20,000 crore is being spent on various development schemes, there will be far greater opportunity to make money through corruption, and this will have to be checked.”

Mr Kumar has shown he means business by scrapping the MLA constituency development fund of Rs 1 crore. This money will be spent, and the MLA will have a say, but the execution will be done by the State. Also, his Government has enacted a law under which corrupt bureaucrats will be convicted, and their ill-gotten wealth and property confiscated. The recent conviction and confiscation of the house of a motor vehicles inspector, which will now be converted into a school, has sent the necessary message. Of course it will be much tougher to go after the bigger crooks within the administration.

All this has naturally turned the nation's attention to Bihar and there is a “national clamour that the Bihar model of development and its anti-corruption measures should be extended, and the Rs 2 crore-constituency development scheme for MPs should also be scrapped,” says Dr Gupta.

That naturally brings us to the possibility of Nitish Kumar emerging as the NDA's prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha polls. Clearly, his secular credentials, tough stance against corruption and clean public image have caught the nation's fancy.

Gujarat vs Bihar model

The other government which is admired for its development and corruption-free model is that of Mr Narendra Modi's Gujarat. And yet the two models are very different. Dr Gupta defines the essential difference as being that of “majoritarianism in politics overtaking other political considerations in Gujarat versus the secular co-option and inclusive growth model of Bihar.” He thinks the Bihar model has a better chance of being replicated at the national level “because you cannot win at the national level by banishing Muslims from the electoral agenda.”

Well, Mr Nitish Kumar has managed to not only to include Muslims in Bihar's electoral agenda, which resulted in his partner, the BJP, getting Muslim votes and improving its tally, he managed a “rainbow coalition” of all classes.

That is why he stands a much better chance (than the controversial Mr Modi) of becoming the NDA's prime ministerial candidate in the next elections. Those close to him say that Mr Nitish is ready to take on that role three years down the line, and the successor he has in mind is BJP's Mr Sushil Modi, his present deputy. But the question is if the BJP would be willing to trade away the PM's post for a mere CM's post. It is all about pros and cons; the advantage would be that Mr Nitish at the NDA helm would succeed in bringing back the TDP's Mr Chandrababu Naidu and, with a little luck, even the BJD's Mr Naveen Patnaik.

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Published on January 04, 2011
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