The results of the Bihar Assembly elections show that the confidence of the voter in the ability of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lift the people from poverty remains undimmed. Growth rates may have fallen over the past several years and Covid-19 may have delivered a heavy blow to jobs and incomes, but the only leader regarded as capable of retrieving the situation is Modi. The victory in Bihar was not a victory for the state government but can be ascribed to the tireless campaigning of the Prime Minister. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has seen the seat tally of his party fall way below that of the RJD, although it must be said that the Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi has done even worse than earlier. It is unlikely that there will be any change in the Congress leadership after the Bihar polls. Even should Rahul Gandhi be nominated as the President of the AICC, he will as usual function under the guidance and the shadow of his mother, the undisputed supremo of the party. It speaks for the generosity of the Prime Minister assisted by BJP President J.P. Nadda (who has established himself as an effective head of the party organisation) that Nitish Kumar will continue in his post. This will be his last innings as Chief Minister in the state, and it needs to be spent in ensuring that Bihar reach a level of growth that is commensurate with its resources and gifted population. The state abounds in paradoxes. Patna railway station is among the best maintained in the world, as is Nalanda, once inside the campus of the complex. Just outside the complex or the station are roads that belong to the past, rife with filth and neglect. It was the memory of the manner in which Lalu Prasad Yadav ruled Bihar that made many voters continue to back the JDU, else that party would have seen its tally fall even further than it has. At long last, voters are looking beyond caste and community and voting progress rather than regression. The RJD in its choice of candidates showed too much of the Lalu Prasad Yadav past to enable it to gain a majority. The focus was on Muslim-Yadav, and what happened was that many Muslims chose the AIMIM led by the charismatic Asaduddin Owaisi rather than Tejashwi Yadav in the polls, a warning sign for those claiming to be in favour of secular politics.
Ultimately, it was the energetic campaigning of the Prime Minister that ensured the continuance of Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister of Bihar. From 2014, Modi has talked of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas” and this continues to resonate, especially among the youth. The image of the Prime Minister as almost an ascetic, complete with the mien of a philosopher, has been effective in bringing in the all-important votes of women, who are more sensitive to such finer points than their male counterparts. The Prime Minister is most popular among youths and women, and this turned the tide away from Tejashwi Yadav in Bihar, although the youthful leader of the RJD put up a spirited fight and will certainly remain a force in the politics of not just the state but the nation. Nitish Kumar needs to bring to the same level as the more advanced parts of Bihar the backward regions. In particular, roads and highways need to be brought to the high standard that is becoming the norm in India thanks to the efforts of Nitin Gadkari to translate the desire of the Prime Minister for better infrastructure into reality. Millions of tourists will come to Bihar, should such shibboleths as prohibition be done away with and better maintenance of hotels and the building of more be encouraged. The state has a wealth of historical locations that would interest tourists from across the world, and this has been neglected by the present government. Investment needs to flow into the state, so that its people are not forced to work in distant locations but can find occupations closer to their own homes. At the national level, once Modi 2.0 signals that it is firmly on the side of the democracies in Cold War 2.0, hundreds of companies seeking to relocate from the People’s Republic of China will turn to locations that are suitable in Bihar, once the regulatory and sanitary environment meets better standards, as they already have in some parts of the state. In this connection, the efforts put in by the Uttar Pradesh government led by Yogi Adityanath are worth a mention, as they are making a difference in the manner in which international investors are viewing UP, a state that had been written off in the past. Law and order is an important element in success, and rather than act as moral police sending those consuming a glass of alcohol to jail, attention needs to be paid to serious crimes such as rape and murder, not to mention larceny. Hard drugs need to be rooted out and the networks ensuring their availability should be rolled up. There is nothing more conducive to the growth of the Mafia than Prohibition. In the US, it was Prohibition in the 1920s which led to an explosion in strength of the Mafia. A similar error by Chief Minister Bansi Lal in Haryana led to the same situation in a state that has otherwise done well. Rather than set himself up as a moral policeman, Nitish Kumar needs to heed the counsel of the Prime Minister to understand that realities of the 21st century and to function in accordance with the needs of the people. The people of Bihar have placed their trust in the Prime Minister and in his choice of the Chief Minister, and it is time to deliver.