ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fallacy of the State in Bihar

Nitish Kumar's rule in Bihar has been lauded for the return of "law and order". An overview of some recent events involving dalits, pasmanda Muslims and the sway of landlords and their mafi a reveals that little has changed.

This is a shorter version of a paper presented at a National Conference on “ Traversing Bihar: The Politics of Social Justice and Development”, 5-6 July 2012, Tata I nstitute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. The author is grateful to C P Bhambri for his c omments on an earlier draft. The usual disclaimers apply.

The crowning of Nitish Kumar as the chief minister of Bihar in 2005 was greeted with expectations and optimism. The rule of Lalu Prasad in the 1990s despite symbolising victory of the oppressed and the marginalised in a state wretched by the feudal upper caste militias, had failed to bring in an age of fairness, prosperity and instead did little to change the situation on law and order. To resuscitate the situation and take B­ihar “out of the darkness” was always going to be difficult for Nitish Kumar’s regime. The Janata Dal (United) – JD(U) regime – its leader Nitish Kumar in particular – however, responded to the situation very cleverly announcing program­mes such as the janata durbar (people’s court) and successfully impressed the people of the state and outside by posturing as a leader committed to development. Consequently, five years later, the alliance with the Bharatiya ­Janata Party (BJP) once again won the assembly election, this time with 63 more seats and a 3% positive swing in its favour. Many well meaning progressives welcomed this transition from a negative vote against “Lalu Raj” to a positive support “for econo­mic d­eve­lopment and good governance”.

However, when viewed critically, the same was not true necessarily in terms of the best indicators of development and the “rule of law” in the state. Growth-based economic development has never been the best measurement tool to analyse the performance of any state, and Bihar, where the growth story itself is pretty skewed (Dasgupta 2010; Nagaraj and Rahman 2010; Tsujita, Oda and Ghosh: 2010; Jha and Singh 2010), is no different. The picture of Bihar, with ­reference to the most reasoned expec­tations about political economy, has ­remained quite depressing.

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