Patna: Christmas has come and gone, but Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has only just switched to Santa Claus mode. He is openly showering bounties, taking no notice of the Opposition’s clamours and huge financial losses.
For some, this may sound strange but after firmly seating himself in the saddle, Nitish has now gone on a spree of returning favours to just about everyone who helped him win the October-November election, that had become a matter of prestige for him given Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally taking charge of the entire poll campaign. The campaign saw Modi address as many as 27 election rallies — the maximum by any Indian prime minister in state elections.
The message he wants to convey is that he is the man who could be trusted. Well this is a simple trick of the trade — give with one hand and take from the other! And, Nitish looks to be doing just that. Favours were handed out quickly to IT expert Prashant Kishore, Lalu Yadav and the women voters. But, why only them?
The reason is as follows.
Let’s begin with Prashant, who has been appointed advisor to Nitish — a rank of cabinet minister. The man said to have the Midas touch, had worked hard to draft poll strategies for Nitish during the month-long election campaign, which turned into a straight contest between him and the prime minister. Apart from revealing Modi’s “tricks” — something with which Prashant was well aware, since he also had designed his poll strategies during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections — he also made sure Nitish was focused on positive campaigning only.
So while Modi went on hitting Nitish and his alliance partners — Lalu and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi — hard, the Bihar chief minister focused only on telling the masses how he had drafted an ambitious seven-point plan or “seven nischaya” to bring massive changes in their lives.
Free power connections.
Toilets and piped water to every household.
Roads to every hamlet
Employment for every class.
These were the promises Nitish made to to villagers, and asked in exchange, for their trust. The end-result showed the people had reposed faith in Nitish.
Likewise, Nitish has also tried to reply his “debt” towards the RJD — his alliance partner — by withdrawing a criminal case against Lalu and his two children, Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav, both ministers in his government. For the past six months or so, the Patna High Court had robbed the Yadav family of sleep by hearing a case related to large-scale vandalism on the streets. The case was registered against them by the state government after they were found to be involved in alleged vandalism during the day-long bandh called by the RJD in July 2015 to press for release of the caste census, but this was slowly proving to be an albatross around their necks.
Eventually on Wednesday, the state government filed a petition in the court saying it did not want to pursue the case any longer. Subsequently, the court accepted the government’s plea and decided to close the case.
The special favour was not without basis. Lalu had promised not to stake claims for the post of chief minister even if the RJD emerged as the single-largest party after the elections and he stood by his words till the end. He did not look at the post even though the RJD won nine seats more than the JD-U (RJD - 80 seats, JD-U - 71). Secondly, Lalu managed to transfer the votes of his party’s loyal support groups — Muslims and Yadavs (MY) — to the JD-U despite the decade-old bitter rivalries between Kurmis and Yadavs. Kurmis are Nitish’s fellow castemen.
Such a thing had not taken place during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when Yadav failed to transfer his fellow Yadavs’ votes to Ram Vilas Paswan’s party despite the fact that RJD-LJP was fighting the elections in alliance. In this case, however, Yadavs wholeheartedly backed Nitish as the grand alliance scripted a magnificent victory over the NDA, virtually reducing the Modi-led BJP to dust.
The last name that figures on Nitish’s list is 'women'. This group solidly stood by him despite every effort made by the NDA to woo them. Their support for the grand alliance was underlined from the fact that their turnout percentage stood at 60.57 percent — which was roughly six percent more than the male voters. But for their support, it would have been just impossible for Nitish to stage a comeback.
Apparently, as a reward for their support, Nitish has now been quick to grant 35 percent reservation for women in all state government jobs. This means the number of women in government jobs is set to increase rapidly in the coming days, which will not only boost their confidence but also empower them both socially and economically.
In addition to this, Nitish has also announced a ban on the sale and consumption of liquor from the next financial year beginning April this year, apparently ignoring huge financial losses.
It is worth mentioning here that the state government had been earning huge revenues by way of the sale of liquor every year. The revenue target for the current financial year is around Rs 4,000 crore. In the last financial year (2014-15), Bihar earned total revenue of Rs 3,220 crore, followed by Rs 3,173 crore in 2013-14; 2,432 crore in 2012-13; 2,045 crore in 2011-12; Rs 1,543 crore in 2010-11, and Rs 1,099 crores in 2009-10 when the Nitish government drafted a new excise policy for Bihar.
Now with the government deciding to ban the sale of liquor, the state is set to incur huge financial losses.
But for Nitish, this is just a small price to pay for the wholehearted support of women.