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A Change in Political Discourse

November 24, 2010

The world is shrinking. Communication and media have made distances irrelevant. Information is on our fingertips. Ignorance has given way to enlightenment and aspirations. I said that earlier and I say that again – India can wait no longer. Indians are on the move and they have lost patience with those who are there to stunt their growth. People in India want security, education, health, infrastructure and a better way of life. Indians are asserting themselves like never before. And they are not ready to tolerate those who want to play with their destiny. Hackneyed slogans and divisive casteist discourse is redundant. This the nation has seen in various parts of the country – in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Orissa and now in Bihar.

The recent elections in Bihar are a watershed of sorts. Janata Dal(United) and Bharatiya Janata Party had come to power in the last elections and this coalition has reinforced their hold over the state politics of Bihar. This alliance has won a more than two-thirds majority in the state assembly. They have swept the elections as it were. They came on a platform of change – change from insecurity, from backwardness and poverty. They delivered in that they ensured that people were secure, that crimes against women were not tolerated, that there was law and order which was absent in the previous administration. They then started on infrastructure development and implementing such schemes as NAREGA which guarantee 100 days of employment to all. Roads and bridges were built, power line laid and people could go out and earn their living. This was such a departure from what the people of Bihar were used to that they saw a sea change in the state of Bihar.

Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi

Casteism was the bane of the state of Bihar – or so the people thought. Nitish Kumar the JD(U) leader and the chief minister of Bihar along with his deputy from the BJP – Sushil Modi worked on issues not on caste or regional basis but on issues concerning people. They understood that they after a long struggle had been given a chance by the people of Bihar to do something for the state. The duo went about their task diligently and their efforts saw Bihar transform in these five years.

Bihar and Biharis have a sense of pride as do people of all states. There was a time when people of Bihar would feel ashamed to say that they are from Bihar – such were the state of affairs in this backward state. Let me remind the reader’s that at the time of independence Bihar was the fifth most prosperous state of undivided India. It is also true that the mineral riches of the state have now gone to Jharkhand. Yet, proud Biharis had a sense of inevitability about their future and had a defeatist attitude. The present government may not have been able to ‘develop’ the state in any perceptible way but one thing is for sure – they have put the nuts and bolts in place so that the state can move forward. Those who condemned Bihar as an irretrievable state which will never be able to come out of the morass of lawlessness and casteism are in for a surprise. The people of Bihar have voted decisively for development and progress. They want security and jobs and they want to join the mainstream of an emerging India. This election in Bihar will be a turning point in the politics of the country. Caste, religion and regionalism are passé. People want development and a better life and that is the fundamental issue.

Political pundits were banking on people voting on the basis of caste and religion. Remarkably the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party has done particularly well in constituencies where Muslims were more than 20% of the electorate. Muslims like all other communities realize that they want development and if it is the right wing party that can give them development, progress, and jobs then so be it – they voted for the BJP. Laloo Yadav, the messiah of the Yadav community learnt to his utter dismay that even his Yadav brethren voted for the JD(U) and BJP combine. The issue was progress and development and women’s welfare. Caste and religion have been reduced to a personal preference as it ought to be. What politicians thought was beyond the capacity of the people of Bihar – that they would vote with a larger picture in mind – the progress of the state of Bihar has come true. People of Bihar have shown tremendous maturity and they have shown that they are very clear as to what their preferences are.

Women in particular have voted decisively for this government. The Nitish Kumar government ensured that girls received bicycles and that they went to schools. Government schools started working and the mid-day meal scheme was implemented. Now I am told that the government is planning to give bicycles to all boys so that they can also go to school on their bicycles. These small but meaningful gestures, though a drain on exchequer were not such a burden that the state of Bihar could not afford. Schools have teachers teaching, government offices are functioning and in cases of natural calamity there are district administrators out there ensuring that relief material reaches those affected. This is such a departure from what the people of Bihar were used to that they voted above and beyond caste, creed and religion. There is a Bihari sense of pride and that has resulted in Biharis all over the country and the world rejoice at this welcome change. Property prices in Patna, Gaya, Bhagalpur and Darbhanga have gone up as more and more Biharis want to come back to Bihar. Those with land and building have seen a jump in rentals and property prices and this has been another welcome change.

The fact of the matter is that political discourse in the country has changed for good. The onus now is on development and welfare. As said earlier with mass media and social media making forays into every household and in every village and town people tend to compare. There is a sense of competition and if a state or a region is lagging behind then the people begin to ask as to why and how is it that they are not getting what others have. The discourse starts with basic infrastructure like roads, electricity, clean drinking water and goes on to education, health and then such add on as cable television and internet. People’s aspirations are increasing and they do not want to leave their state and live in an alien environment. They want everything at home – in their town and in their village. If they see that the public representatives are incapable or incompetent or corrupt and therefore they are not getting what is their due they do not hesitate to ensure that such individuals are voted out of power. They need people who want to perform. They want clean government and administration that can address their needs and their concerns. It is an informed public now and once they have tasted the fruits of success they are not ready to compromise on anything less. Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi delivered and they have got a resounding thumbs’ up by the people of Bihar. Same is the case in Gujarat, Orissa and other states where the agenda of the government is the welfare of the people. Corrupt, myopic politicians are realizing that their style of politics is over and the new informed Indian will have none of this. Arun Shourie, a respected journalist, author and a political commentator has termed this phenomena ‘politics of idealism’. People are just not ready to compromise. They want a clean, efficient government that cares for their welfare and works for the betterment of the state and the country. In Karnataka too we see that the present government is getting approval because it has performed.

What has happened in the state of Bihar and earlier in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and others should be an eye opener for the political leadership of this country whether on the regional or on national level. Political discourse has changed and from divisive, redundant politics people have moved on to real issues. This is the lesson that present and future political leadership of this country must learn.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 9, 2011 1:32 pm


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