[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]en years is a long time for any Chief minister in a country where people have little patience with Governments and politicians are looked at with a great deal of suspicion. But Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has conquered the odds by emerging as one of the most acceptable choices for chief minister in all the opinion polls conducted by both print and electronic media ahead of the start of the assembly elections.
In fact, Nitish even pipped Prime Minister Narendra Modi on popularity chart in many of these polls, proving that “delivery on promises” matters even in a caste-ridden society like Bihar. If you drive down hundreds of kilometers across the state, you may find few people who are critical of Nitish though they might not vote for him for other reasons, especially for his association with Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Here are five reasons why Nitish Kumar might click with the voters:
- Financial recovery: When Nitish Kumar replaced Chief Minister Rabri Devi in 2005, Bihar reeled under a grave financial crisis and collapse of law and order machinery. On both these fronts, Nitish has done exceedingly well. The State’s annual plan outlay has gone up from Rs 4,700 cr ($722.19 million) in 2005 to nearly Rs 57,000 cr ($8.76 billion) in the present fiscal. The phenomena rise has been possible due to mobilization of internal revenue. In sectors like excise and transport, revenue collection has seen ten-fold jump during the last ten years. The additional money that has flown into the state’s economy has began to reflect in the improved standard life of people and pushed Bihar’s GDP growth to double digits, ahead of several states.
- Bihar pride: During the 16 years of Lalu-Rabri rule in Bihar, the state was known for corruption and crime. Biharis were subjected to such ridicule and contempt across the country that many of them were reluctant to even share their true identity. This reflected in shrinking employment opportunity for Biharis in private sector employment as well. By placing the state on the track of all-round development (Of course, Nitish’s ally the BJP also gets a lion’s share of credit for the turnaround) Nitish has restored the self pride of an average Bihari. That is why there was a sharp reaction among the people of the state when Prime Minister Narendra Modi question Nitish DNA. Nitish has successfully stoked this Bihari ‘pride‘ by making this election a battle between Biharis and Bahris (Outsiders). Bihari sub-nationalism will be an important factor that might help Nitish click in a big way among even those sections of voters who loathe him for joining hands with Lalu Prasad Yadav.
- Roads: The first things anyone visiting Bihar after ten years will notice is the transformation of its roads, both highways and rural roads. They backbreaking road journey and nightmare of negotiating dangerous curves and ditches are now distant memories. The improved roads (except some pockets) has resulted in better revenue generation from transport sector.
- Power: Rural electrification has been a big success story in Bihar. Though the state does not produce much power, it has been able to lay impressive distribution network and done its best to provide last mile connectivity. Today, most of the villages have at 12 to 18 hours of power, something which not many people could have dreamt ten years ago. The towns have mostly uninterrupted power supply.
- Law and Order: For better part of Lalu-Rabri regime between 1990 and 2005, a dreaded kidnapping industry flourished in the state, forcing flight of traders and entrepreneurs out of Bihar in large numbers. Professional were scared to own cars and houses and markets and shop shut down at sunset. By running an administration that was given free hand to deal with law breakers, Nitish has broken the back of organized crime syndicate in Bihar Of course, notorious don Anant Singh flourished during his regime under state patronage, but now he is cooling his heels in the prison. The restoration of law and order has changed the life style of the state capital and other towns. Patna is gradually adopting a night life that not many people could have imagined a decade ago.
1. The conversion rate used is 1 USD = 65.08 Rupees.
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