Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why is Bihar poor?

As the long-drawn Assembly election in Bihar enters its second half, I have been intrigued by the machinations. The media of course, has its own agenda, as do these Award Wapsi people. But Bihar is very different from Delhi. In all my years, I've always heard about a mythical creature - the politically suave and knowledgeable Bihari, who knows and understands the ins and outs of politics and government. And yet, Bihar seems to be on the verge of bringing back Lalu Yadav to power, the man who drove the state to the dark ages.

Let's talk about this mythical creature. The average Bihari probably knows a lot. Does that help them in any which way? Aside from getting some government jobs, probably not. This is probably the classic case of quantity over quality - sure, the average Bihari might know a lot, but that comes to nothing. A blatantly militant and casteist Lalu Yadav, together with the extremely opportunistic Nitish Kumar, seem set to capture power in Patna, thus returning the state to its former form. An alternative that speaks the message of jobs, infrastructure and development looks to be losing. And all this, presumably, because one side couldn't get its caste equations right! Sure, caste is still important in India, but it seems Bihar and UP remain the last places where it dominates over all else - even life and death by the looks of things.

Therefore, it seems that the politically savvy Bihari is a myth - they are simply the maggu student who is able to memorize vast amounts of information without ever making any sense out of it. Until they help themselves up, they will be destined to hold government jobs (whose entrance exam is the mother of all tests of rote memorization) or work as helpers in those parts of the country that have moved far ahead, with far less so-called knowledge. 


rohit gupta said...

Don't you think its too soon to conclude that the "Mahagatbandhan" is set to return?

This may not be entirely true but it does make some sense

Sushobhan Sen said...

I read that article. I'm not making a final conclusion, but the very fact that Lalu has even a fighting chance shocks me. I remember the last Bihar election when Nitish was telling people that Lalu is a joker. Since then, Lalu has been convicted of corruption and Bihar has had some idea of what a "better" life can be. And yet, Lalu actually has a chance of coming back, through Nitish Kumar no less, and people don't seem to care!

rohit gupta said...

Now this is where Bihar becomes interesting. It gives nightmares to even the best of psephologists. Now if you have noticed the BJP narrative in this election it is solely based upon Jungleraj which is nothing but a period of Yadav dominance. Such is the case of Bihar that until 1990 upper castes had an unfair advantage in a feudal society and from 1990-2005 the advantage went with Yadavs. When NDA broke this yadav dominance in 2005, the Yadavs were miffed at Nitish and considered him their enemy no.1. Kurmi's (the caste which Nitish belongs to) and Yadavs have almost never voted on the same lines. It is to see that Lalu returns to power somehow,that they are willing to drink the poison(remember this statement!?). It is almost impossible without Nitish that Lalu could have some say in power and Nitish alone doesn't have any major caste following. He is a trained electrical engineer but it seems that he has a minor in social engineering. Look at the various groupings he tried to create(mahadalits and EBC's). Look at 2014 lok sabha polls : RJD polled around 20% votes and Nitish could only muster 14%). Its the Lutyens media that thinks that since Nitish has a good image and he is the trump card. They are wrong .Lalu is the trump card . Just look at the excerpts of a amit shah interview. The journalist was asking loaded questions to which amit shah responded to as :

Journalist : The BJP seems to struggle whenever it has no one who can cut into the votes of the opposition camp.

Amit shah : According to you, what is the main strength of our rivals’ camp?

Journalist : Nitish Kumar.

Amit shah : Wrong! Lalu Prasad. The media will not understand us. When ballot boxes are opened, only then will I explain Bihar to you. Call me at 2 pm on November 8.

Now coming at Lalu and why is he revered among the yadavs and muslims:

More than anyone else Lalu has benefited from circumstances. During babri masjid era he stopped LK advani's rath in samsatipur and with this single action he got into his kitty the muslim votes which has stayed loyal to him ever since. In each and every rally he reminds the backwards about the feudal Bihar where they had to stand up in the presence of upper castes. In an interview he has called himself a naxalist. Apparently he had worked for social justice when he was the CM. It was as if from 1990 to 2005 social justice and governance where mutually exclusive. After this period even a normal chief minister would appear visionary. Today if you look throughout the country there are so many chief ministers who are performing extremely well (chandrababu naidu, jayalalitha, pawan kumar chamling (once had 32/32 seats in sikkim assembly), mufti mohamed sayed, won't take bjp CM's names you can judge them). The disadvantage they all have and the reason they aren't noticed because their tenure doesn't appear on a dark background like Nitish's tenure which is seen and compared to the tenure of Lalu

In short Lalu has given a template to win elections. Become pseudo-secular and start appeasing and privileging the dominant caste on the expense of others. In first past the post system a solid 30% vote share is enough to give you power. And the theory that lalu is convicted, none of his supporters subscribe to it. They feel that everybody is corrupt and their saheb is unfairly being targeted.
Apparently there is a silver lining: Whatever may be the outcome the BJP is going to emerge as the principal pole of Bihar politics. And NAMO with is development oriented messaging is breaking the yadav fort and luring away the youngsters born after 1990 who weren't witness to pre-90 bihar.