People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 42

October 17, 2010


Will Nitish's 'Shining Bihar'

Campaign Meet Vajpayee's Fate?

N S Arjun from



“A paradigm shift has occurred in the politics of Bihar. People will vote this time not on caste lines but on the basis of development” – this is the constant refrain of Bihar chief minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar on the present elections to Bihar state assembly. His party has unleashed a tremendous propaganda blitz on these lines, literally forcing the people  to 'feel good' about this 'development' and support them to take ahead the agenda for a 'Shining Bihar.' Last year the state  government spent over Rs 200 crores for media publicity.


After travelling for few days in Mithilanchal and Seemanchal areas of the state and interacting with the people, this question arises in my mind: will Nitish's campaign meet the same fate as that of Vajpayee's 'Shining India' in 2004 Lok Sabha polls? The similarity between the two campaigns is striking in one aspect: at a time when the actual conditions of the poor have worsened, they are being mockingly asked to take part in a 'Shining' affair. And the poor in Bihar are also not taking kindly to this campaign. In village after village, we found them very angry with the state government, particularly over rampant corruption in welfare schemes and general apathy of the state government to their concerns.


In a state where majority of people are dependent on agriculture and most of whom are landless, agricultural production has declined in three years out of five years tenure of JD(U)-BJP government. If Arjun Sengupta commission came out with the startling figure of over 70 per cent Indians earning less than Rs 20 per day, certain studies in Bihar have concluded that the poor in Bihar live on an earning of around Rs 8 per day! With no avenues for employment, almost every household here has its young men going to far off metros to eke out a living and support their families.


In such a situation when the administration tries to fleece money from the poor for delivering the bare minimum welfare schemes, they are naturally livid. The Public Distribution System in Bihar is plagued by corruption and lack of supplies. Amita Devi, a villager in Sarouni village in Saharsa district fumes that she and the rest of villagers did not receive any supplies since July this year. On an average, the BPL and Antyodaya cardholders receive ration for around four months in a year in the state. And that too they do not get their full quota of 25 kg grains, with the dealer citing lack of stocks. On top of this they have to pay Rs 3 to Rs 4 more than the stipulated amount for every kg of grain. This is the feedback in every place we visited.


As for MNREGA, its implementation is a farce in Bihar. Out of the total 1.26 crore job cards given in the state, around 80 lakh persons have not got even a single day's work. This fact was proved during our interactions with people who showed us colourfully printed cards with not even a single entry of payment. Even in the jobs undertaken, they are plagued by lower payments than the stipulated minimum wage as also caste favouritism. There is massive corruption in Indira Awaz Yojana also, with people forced to pay upto Rs 10,000 as bribe in order to get the Rs 35,000 which the government gives to build a pucca house. There is also resentment among people that the beneficiaries are usually those supporting the ruling party.

Not only such corruption exists at micro level, the people of Bihar have been robbed by a massive corruption of Rs 13,000 crores in the state treasury. In July this year, the CAG found that the spending of government of around Rs 13,000 crores has not been accounted for. The High Court has ordered a CBI enquiry into this, which the government has not acted upon. Compared to Lalu Yadav’s Rs 1000 crore fodder scam, this is a huge scam.


The ruling combine's constant effort to showcase improved roads as “development” is not cutting ice with the poor although the middle classes seem to be receptive and in general feel that this regime is a better one over the previous Laloo regime. Ram Mahato, a rickshaw puller in Patna, when quizzed about this shot back “What do I get out of better roads? It wont feed my family. Our lives have become much worse with rising prices”. It was heartening to know that the poor are indeed asking 'development for whom'? Behind this glib talk of development, the actual condition is that this government has taken no steps to improve power situation or revive the more than 25 sick sugar mills and other sick units.


The other important part of 'Shining Bihar' campaign is the false claim of improvement of law and order situation in the state. Nitish Kumar, as also other bourgeois parties, have adopted a clever approach as far as accommodating criminals in these elections is concerned. They have given tickets to the wives of criminals. For example JD(U) has fielded for Lalganj constituency Annu Shukla, wife of Munna Shukla who is serving a life sentence in a murder case. Similarly known criminal element Mohd Taslimuddin has been welcomed into JD(U) from RJD recently. So, all this talk of improved law and order situation is false as the number of crimes is gradually increasing, particularly crimes against women and dalits. There are many custodial deaths and rapes. There is also the phenomenon of hardcore criminals supporting the ruling combine turning into white collar criminals – becoming contractors and taking a large share of loot in the name of development works.


Nitish Kumar is presenting a picture as though he is above caste politics. But in reality he is playing hard casteist politics. After successfully weaning away the other backward castes from Laloo Yadav through formation of “Extemely Backward Castes”, he is now targeting the dalits. Out of 24 dalit sub castes, 23 have been clubbed into “Maha Dalits” and separate schemes announced for them. One sub-caste left out is Paswan community. The reason being obvious: break the dalits rallied behind the Lok Janashakti Party of Ramvilas Paswan, which is fighting these elections in alliance with the RJD.


With more than a month remaining in the final votes to be cast here, it remains to be seen whether the people's anger against the government would hurt the prospects of JD(U) in a decisive manner or whether the propaganda blitz accompanied by clever caste manoeuvring will help Nitish sail through for a second term.