Friday, August 31, 2007

Has Nitish kumar been able to meet the aspirations of people of Bihar?

Overall, Biharisation became a pejorative catchword to denote decadence in the Laloo era. People of Bihar wanted Bihar to be rescued from this cesspool and poised on the path for development.

Has Nitish Kumar been able to bring about the desired change? Nitish-loyalists would say that Bihar's wounds, festering for decades, needed a much longer time to heal, even with a committed and deft physician attending to it. They would argue that Nitish Kumar is earnestly making effort to put Bihar on the roadmap of progress and it would take another couple of years for the results to show on the ground.

Then the question is: are Biharis feeling, if not seeing, that they are on the cusp of a positive change?

The answer is mostly yes. Biharis in general, who have no political axe to grind, do believe that Nitish kumar is doing his best, against all odds, to make a difference in the state. Roads are being built; efforts are afoot to increase power generation; educational institutions are being streamlined.

What is most important, a conducive investment climate is being created by improving the law and order situation.
In the Nitish era, politician-criminals are virtually on the run. Organised extortion has largely disappeared. The command structure of the police force has been re-established. Ordinary people feel that they are no more at the receiving end of the politician-criminal-police nexus.

Not surprising that corporate houses, which had fled the state or which dared not enter its territory, are now making a bee-line to start business in Bihar.

Thus there is a feel in the air that Bihar is changing, for the better.

But there is a flip side to the Nitish regime as well. Some of the very well known citizens of the state, whose life history would vouch for their integrity and commitment, feel that Nitish Kumar, despite his best intentions, is hamstrung because of his over-dependence on a small coterie of bureaucrats for policy formulation as well as execution. The chief minister has a forum called Janata Durbar to interact with the hoi polloi, but that is mostly used by the CM to listen to and redress specific grievances. That is not a forum to discuss acts of omission and commission of his government. Many activists, who have great faith in Nitish Kumar's ability to turn the tide, rue the fact that he is increasingly becoming a prisoner of bureaucracy, having no window to the feedback from outside the charmed circle.

What is striking is that this accusation against the chief minister is not confined to the activists alone; politicians of the ruling party, including some of the ministers vigorously endorse it. Some senior bureaucrats too, who have had exemplary record of performance in the Bihar government, have failed to get the ears of the chief minister as they are not on good terms with the coterie.

Nitish loyalists would argue that it is impossible for a chief minister to listen to the unsolicited advice or feedback of everyone who claims to work in the interest of the state; he has to depend on his trusted lieutenants to carry on the affairs of the state.

Well, that kind of logic is valid for most of the chief ministers who claim and feel that they are working in the best interests of the state; but when they go out of power they realize what a misconception they suffered from. After all, trusted lieutenants are wont to present a rosy picture, but very often that is misleading.

Gandhiji therefore always made it a point to touch base with scores of people drawn from different parts of the country to listen to their critiques of his ideas and actions. Nitish Kumar, a Gandhian in spirit, must also find space and time for his well-meaning critics if he has to succeed in the gigantic struggle to change the face of Bihar.

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