Time for introspection in Bihar
All is not well in Bihar.
The law and order situation is deteriorating.
During the 15-year rule of the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) Lalu Prasad Yadav and his family, law and order became the biggest casualty in Bihar. There was large-scale migration of students and youth from the state. Many dons, including Pappu Yadav, Mohammad Shahabuddin and Anand Mohan Singh, became powerful under the patronage of Lalu Yadav. No political party dared to hold a rally in Siwan, the home district of Shahabuddin, who was nominated to the national executive—the highest decision-making body of the party—instead of being suspended.
When the Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party, or JD(U)-BJP, coalition came to power in 2005, it was on the promise of providing law and order and development. Once in power, the coalition made efforts to ensure speedy trials of the dons, managed to rein them in and ensure improvement in law and order. But law and order concerns are once again surfacing with the current government. With chief minister Nitish Kumar under pressure from alliance partner RJD, the state government did not assign a senior advocate to fight the cases against Shahabuddin. As a result, Shahabuddin got bail in more than 35 cases in the past few years after junior law officers were assigned to handle the case.
It is also important to note that the Bihar government did not file a timely appeal in the Supreme Court against Shahabuddin’s release.
It was forced to do so by the actions of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who approached the Supreme Court challenging the bail granted to Shahabuddin by the Patna high court.
Recently, Raj Vallabh Yadav, an RJD legislator charged with the abuse of a minor girl, also got bail.
Another issue is that two power centres are emerging in Bihar.
On the one hand, Nitish Kumar has promised good governance; but on the other, he needs the support of the RJD to continue to run the government.
Lalu Yadav wants to establish both his sons in the political spectrum since he himself cannot become chief minister. This is the reason why the uncomfortable alliance is continuing.
State government officers are facing problems because loyalties are divided.
Unlike the practice during the rule of the BJP-JD(U) coalition, there is massive interference even in the postings of district magistrates and collectors.
A cold war has started in the alliance which is impacting the functioning of the government.
Lalu Yadav and Nitish Kumar are barely speaking to each other.
RJD rallies are being organized against their own coalition’s chief minister, with prominent leaders such as Raghuvansh Prasad Singh openly speaking against Nitish Kumar.
Nitish Kumar is being called a circumstantial CM who got elected either with the help of the BJP or with the help of the RJD.
These open fissures are denting the image of the chief minister; and the feeling is that Nitish Kumar is devoting less time to Bihar and aspiring for a larger role. He has stopped holding his Janata Durbar, where more than 1,000 people used to come every Monday to talk about their problems and concerns.
The fiscal situation in Bihar is also deteriorating with the government struggling to find funds for development. The government has lost more than Rs4,500 crore in revenue due to liquor prohibition, which has also not proved to be very effective.
The government has not been able to pay salaries to teachers of universities, colleges and schools for a few months. It was forced to withdraw several incentives given to industry under the new industrial policy. Only an interest subsidy is now given to new industries for setting up shop in the state and capital subsidy is no longer given due to a funds crunch. This is leading to the drying up of new investments.
To sum up, the law and order situation is deteriorating and development work has been badly hit due to financial constraints.
Sushil Kumar Modi is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party and former deputy chief minister of Bihar.
(As told to Remya Nair.)