Bihar Crisis: what actually lies beneath?

It would be a miracle, if Bihar’s ruling coalition completes full term in the office, for how many times the journey seemed to be over. Crisis has continued making inroads into Nitish led Government since its inception.

So far, the present row over Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav’s continuation or resignation which at many occasions threatened to dislodge the grand coalition highlighted a simmering discontent.

The trust and understanding which were evident while allocation of seats to candidates of RJD, JDU and Congress at ‘one go’ and in successful transfer of votes to candidates of different parties within alliance vanished as soon as government formed.

While the differences are inevitable in such alliance where two political parties for years locked into bitter rivalry, the said ground on which the regular cracks are appearing is far from convincing. Lalu’s ‘alleged’ link with corruption is neither new, nor unknown. Indeed, the Grand alliance came into being with this baggage. How does it matter now?

JDU’s national spokesperson K.C. Tyagi’s widely reported statement that JDU was much more comfortable in alliance with BJP, is most noteworthy clue in this regard.

On scratching the surface a little further it becomes more apparent. The style of functioning of two major constituents of the government, i.e., RJD and JDU in their respective period of rule in Bihar, points to their opposite pulls. While RJD (formerly Janta Dal) Lalu led primarily through empowering political representative, JDU (initially Samta Party) spearheaded by Nitish Kumar, govern mainly by giving free hands to bureaucrats under his supervision.

Both may claim for effectiveness of their approach: Nitish can produce economic & infrastructure development, Better law and order as a proof of success of his strategy. Notwithstanding charges of ‘Jungle Raj’ Lalu also has few important feats to present with. At a time when most part of the Hindi belt was taken over by communal clashes he presided over much peaceful Bihar – however, for whatever reasons he could not curb crime and caste related violence.

Lalu claims, by giving power to politician he actually empowered the poor and voiceless lower caste as local politicians were more reachable to them in comparison with officers.

According to a Patna based political observer, “Lalu Yadav came to power as an assertive backward leader who had to initially deal with the upper caste hegemony in every discipline. After implementation of Mandal Commission report he further got emboldened; therefore, he persistently tried to curb the domination of upper cast in bureaucracy.”

By doing ‘auchak nirakchan (surprise Inspection) he kept officers in check. Lalu’s son & health Minister Tej Pratap following his father’s footstep, the very first day in his office went on to inspect the PMCH. However, when on a similar unannounced visit, Lalu himself went into IGIMS and took stock of the situation along with patient’s feedback, a controversy was erupted.

The other son and deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, who looks after road construction department, too carries out similar inspections of sites. He initiated a Whatsapp service to complain about damaged road and get it repaired.

Hence, next to Nitish Kumar it’s the two Lalu yadav’s minister sons who attracted most publicity in the grand alliance government. Along with these, many other collision courses might have perhaps, troubled the comfort that Mr. Tyagi was talking about.

To handle this ever present conflicting approach of governance, unprecedented managerial acumen is vital. The challenge will keep testing Nitish Kumar.

With inputs from the research paper, “Governing caste and managing conflict in Bihar by Manish K.Jha and Pushpendra”

Shams Khan is a journalist based in Patna

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