October 21, 2020

Bihar: Nitish’s JD(U)-BJP double-engine train has lost its steam

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (file photo)A year after they came together, the double-engine train of Janata Dal (United) and Bharatiya Janata Party in Bihar seems to have lost its steam, if not destination, or has gotten derailed. Be it on development front, law and order, women’s safety, agricultural growth, investment, construction, communal harmony and fight against corruption, the National Democratic Alliance government is nowhere near the targets.

The metaphor of double engine was used by NDA leaders after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made a ‘homecoming’ on July 27, a day after abandoning the Grand Alliance government with Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress, accusing the numerically bigger partner RJD of being involved in corruption.

Exactly 365 days later, it appears that there is hardly any synchronisation between the two engines which are pulling the train with different speeds.

A senior RJD leader quipped that the two engines are attached on either end of the train and are pulling it in opposite directions.

Nothing epitomises this situation better than the breaking of 48-hour long fast undertaken by 10 elderly women, including Padmashri Sister Sudha Verghese and Kanchan Bala on July 26 morning, in protest against the astronomical rise in crimes against women in Bihar.

Scams and horrific crimes hog the headlines in Bihar

This includes the latest revelation of the rapes of at least 16 minor girls in a shelter home run in Muzaffarpur town by an NGO, Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti. It was funded by the Women’s Development Corporation of the state.

Ten people, including seven women and Brajesh Thakur, who runs the NGO, have been arrested. Thakur is said to be close to the ruling alliance and also runs a local vernacular newspaper. The young girls reportedly narrated their harrowing experience to a team from the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The victims alleged that they were being supplied to high and powerful people and that one of them had even been killed and buried.

Another NGO came to the limelight just after the NDA government came to power last year. Srijan Mahila Vikas Evam Sahyog Samiti, which was run by now late Manorama Devi, was said to be involved in the infamous ₹1,500 crore Srijan Scam, or Fund Transfer Scam, in Bhagalpur district.

Though the CBI is probing the scam, nothing significant has come of its ‘investigations’ yet. This is despite—or maybe because of—the fact that the name of several ruling alliance politicians figured in it.

Srijan Scam was soon followed by the multi-crore Toilet Scam. This is the story of both the “Beti Bachao” and “Swachch Bharat” programmes of the Prime Minister.

Just after coming to power, the state government imposed a ban on sand mining on the plea that the mafia involved in it was violating environmental laws. But the Opposition charged that it was done as many of those involved in the sand mining business come from Yadav caste, part of the vote base of the RJD. This brought construction work to a standstill, throwing thousands of workers out of jobs.

Nervous Nitish relaxes Prohibition law

The reality of how the double engines were working in Bihar was first noticed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi toured flood-hit districts of north Bihar on August 26 last year. He announced an initial amount of ₹500 crore for flood relief. The amount, even according to the NDA leaders, was too meagre. They were upset as the former PM Manmohan Singh had announced ₹1,100 crore after he toured the flood-ravaged districts of north Bihar in 2008.

Nitish was once again peeved when Modi visited Patna on the occasion of the centenary celebration of Patna University on October 14. The Prime Minister rejected his demand of central university status for Patna University. Later in the day, while addressing a meeting in Mokama, Modi claimed that the NDA government had in three and a half years made record number of roads, which no government has done since independence. Till then, it was Nitish who used to boast about this claim.

Nitish was also completely overshadowed by Modi when the latter visited Champaran on April 10, on the occasion of the completion of the 100th year celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s Champaran Satyagraha.

However, it was in the month of March that Nitish saw himself truly cut to size. The BJP rank and file organised sword wielding demonstrations on the occasion of Ram Navami in all the districts of the state, sparking trouble at about a dozen places. Union minister Ashwini Choubey’s son was named in one such case of rioting on March 17. Yet his father and another Union Minister Giriraj Singh openly dared the state government to take action.

However, Nitish got some breathing space after the defeat of the BJP in bypolls in several states on May 31. The Janata Dal (United) president started flexing his emaciated muscles. Sensing further trouble, BJP chief Amit Shah rushed to Patna to hold talks with him and thus tried to put the NDA house in order.

Even as political uncertainty grips Bihar, it is on the performance front that the NDA government has proved a failure.

Just three days before the completion of NDA’s first year in office, Nitish relaxed the Prohibition law. Now, a first time violator would be let off with a much lighter punishment––a fine of ₹50,000 or three months in jail.

Critics said that he had done so as an overwhelming number of over 1.25 lakh people who had been arrested in the last two years under the strict Prohibition law come from Extremely Backward Castes or are Dalits. The move exposes the Nitish government’s nervousness.

A confused Nitish has now once again raked up the issue of Special Category Status as he can now no more talk of record growth rate, development and better law and order as he used to do in the previous arrangement with the BJP.

Courtesy: National Herald India

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