To Hell and Back!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Laloo and Nitish
My first memories of Laloo take me back to watching him ride a bicycle to the Bihar Vidhan Sabha during the Iraq-Kuwait War. I remember Dad saying that this may just be the recipe that Bihar wanted. A poor man’s son who started his politics with JP could re-write Bihar’s destiny. No one could gauge that it could be a gimmick until seven years later, when he rode a cycle rickshaw to the court. The image of a simple young man with a purpose was replaced by that of a shrewd, plump looking middle aged man who had perfected the art of playing to the gallery.

The next phase of his regime was slated to be murkier. He made his barely literate wife take over the mantle from him while he chose to run the show from the background. Bihar’s transformation from a land rich in education to the land of jokers was complete. Laloo happily chose to become the mascot of this new found image. The term “Bihari” was used as an alternative for the word foolish.

Bihar may not have been a prosperous state to begin with but what it was left with after 15 years of anarchy is something that one may shudder to think about. Back in 2002, when I visited Patna, I was passing through a market nearby my place. The shopping plaza facing the road had 7-8 showrooms facing the road. I was amazed to see gun toting police security guards outside each of these showrooms. The plaza and all similar shopping plazas across the city bore the same look. In the 15 days that I spent there, never did a day pass when I didn’t read about extortion calls and murders. Extortion calls were a weekly fixture at our home too. No one ventured out of their homes after 8 in the night. Our family outings to our favorite restaurant were a thing of the past and I felt uncomfortable moving around with bodyguards when at home. I pressed hard to leave Bihar but Dad just wouldn’t move. “I have spent 50 years of my life building what I have today. I do not want to spend the rest of my life starting afresh again.” There was reason in his point but sadly no hope of things changing.

Bihar was burning from within and its tormentors were ruling the roost. The caste based politics in Bihar needed someone who could beat Laloo at his own game. It was then that Nitish sprung up as a choice. Nitish had a similar background. He had risen among the ranks after the JP movement, was a member of parliament and from a backward caste and he too gave an impression that he could bring about a change. The change that was eagerly awaited came about when Laloo’s party was relegated to the third spot in the last assembly elections in Bihar. Nitish was shrewd. He created a divide by targeting minorities within Laloo’s majority base.

NH-57: Forbesganj
Five years hence, Bihar is deciding again. The elections this year may well be an affirmation of the fact that Bihar has finally come out the shadows of the Jungle Raj that had left behind a land full of extortionists and hooligans. This time the talk is not about caste and religion. It is about development and Laloo seems to have lost the debate on Bihar’s development even before it started. He banks on his clownish acts – “EVM ka button dabayenge to awaz aayega peeeen...” Yes, this is what Laloo has to talk about in his election rallies.

Laloo had once said that he may not have given heaven to the poor people of Bihar, but he had given them a voice. To a large extent that is true. He created a support base for himself by bringing the backward castes to the fore. The mistake - he could not retain their loyalty. Nitish cashed on Laloo’s inability to keep his flock together. Laloo’s caste equation was shred to pieces as Nitish managed to usher in a new dimension of development to the whole game. Nitish being an engineer by vocation is all about facts. Laloo on the other hand is all about wishful thinking. Nitish’s serious outlook and no-nonsense attitude give weight to what he says, Laloo’s non-stop humorous repartee and joker like mannerisms make him look at best like a joker. Laloo’s lavish display of wealth at his daughter’s wedding and the cases of disproportionate assets didn’t do any good to his image as the poor man’s savior.

An aerial view of Patna
I was reading one of Nitish’s speeches on TV during the election campaign trail in Bihar this year. He conveyed a vision that he had set for Bihar. He talked of nailing crime in his last regime and looked forward to tackling corruption in the next term. His speech had substance considering the fact that he got a corruption bill passed from Bihar Vidhan Sabha last year to deal with corrupt public servants. Laloo and Rabri on the other hand resort to using foul mouthed language and accusing Nitish of loot and corruption and taking time to introduce their son Tejaswi as the young face that will take over the mantle of the party in the years to come. Nitish has an agenda when he speaks, Laloo just has a stand up comic act to accomplish!

Though all the positivity about Bihar’s upsurge seems a bit exaggerated with agriculture and industry still not ‘shining’ as much as the perception is, Nitish’s regime has instilled the faith that the change, big or small, is for the better. With good infrastructure in place, we can be hopeful that investments will come to Bihar now. As the elections reach the final stages, the perception is that Nitish may well be set for another term in office and he too probably knows it. It looks as if Laloo and Paswan may end up filling the numbers this time.

P&M Mall to be opened in Patna in May next year
When I visited Patna this Diwali, I was like a child exploring the same city that I grew up in. There is some good news for NRB’s particularly from Patna. You can be hopeful of enjoying happy vacations in your hometown in the days to come. There are bridges all around, lighted roads, bustling market places, multiplexes and food joints coming up.

For all socialists cringing at the capitalist items being assumed to be measures of prosperity and a city being singled out to define a state’s success, I am no Karl Marx. It’s just the child within me that’s itching to rave about the place that he once saw dying!


Rahul said...

Can't agree more ... Was there in Chhath this year and can feel the change... Bihar need stable government for next 5 years to convert the goodwill into the investments, jobs and prosperity..

Amit Kumar Jaiswal said...

Now that Nitish has won and again become CM, I hope Bihar will touch new high.
I never have doubt on talent of Bihari People. There are numerous SO brilliant people in all spheres of life from Bihar. In IITs, CIvil services, there are many toppers who are from Bihar. I sometimes think if there are so talented guys from a place and most of them move outside then there must be very strong reason to move. I never visited Bihar but have heard of lot of stories of that place from many of my bihari friends.

But am sure NBRs soon will make Bihar a place to be in with the help of good governance.

My dream is really to work in Patna sometime in future and am sure a time will come when Bihar will have cities like Delhi or Blore and that time will come sooner.

Sudhanshu said...

Very well written Anurag!

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