Improbable as it may seem, exit polls indicate that the Mahagathbhandhan, with Tejashwi Yadav at its head, might win the Bihar Assembly Elections. Is Bihar addicted to poverty and social backwardness? Even imagining the return of jailbird Lalu Yadav’s rule – this time courtesy his son – does not promise more than what it did during wife Rabri’s stint as Chief Minister. It is believed that the promise of ten lakh government jobs has tipped the scales against the incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Does anybody believe this can actually happen? Who will pick up the salary bill? Bihar has been struggling to raise the very low base of its economic activity for very long now and has made some progress. Such governance will put it inextricably back into the garbage heap.
The reality is that politics has been reduced to a straightforward power struggle between the caste combinations that constitute the regional parties. Nitish Kumar’s JDU was simply the response of the other backward castes that were tired of the depredations of the MY alliance, which exercised power for long in, both, UP and Bihar. The predictions of an adverse electoral verdict are emanating probably from a scattering of JDU base as signified by Lok Janshakti Party’s outright revolt. Even so, it is hard to unravel the caste equations in the state and Chirag Paswan might actually be attempting to attract anti-Nitish votes his way, which would impact adversely on the Mahagathbandhan.
In such an environment, obtaining power does not have anything to do with development and progress. It is just a question of who will share the spoils and in what proportion. Since Tejashwi Yadav as Chief Minister would be a decision taken by the people of Bihar, it would be natural to assume that it has nothing to do with the rest of India. Unfortunately, it does. The increased joblessness and poverty will only mean more people migrating elsewhere for jobs. This impacts on the wages in the host states, leading to increased exploitation. The decision by some better off states to reserve jobs for locals is the consequence of this inflow. Not only will Bihar continue to drag the country’s economic indices lower, it will eventually be beset with increased conflict within, further lowering the quality of life. The focus on social issues – such as the decision by Nitish to impose prohibition – rather than the more important economic ones has brought Bihar to this unfortunate pass. Hopefully, the elections will have a better outcome than presently predicted.