Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar (File Photo, Image credit: Deccan Herald)

Nitish’s last innings would be on a bowler-friendly pitch

Now that the dust seems to have settled and Nitish Kumar is about to play another innings–the last if his November 5 announcement at Damdaha in Purnea is to be taken seriously–the pitch, according to experts, is not going to be batsman friendly. Not only the bowling attack of the rival team led by Tejashwi Prasad Yadav is going to pose challenge , the players of the National Democratic Alliance are not brimming with confidence as it used to be in the earlier matches as they have become jaded.

After the election victory the biggest problem which Nitish Kumar is going to face is as to how will he fulfil the promises made by the alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party, especially of 19 lakh employments and free vaccine for Corona Virus for the people of Bihar.

29 lakh jobs

In the lighter vein a wag wrote in social media that the people of Bihar would be greatly benefited if the BJP and Rashtriya Janata Dal join hands to form the government as in that case 19 lakh + 10 lakh, that is 29 lakhs jobs would be created. Besides, the people of the state would get free vaccine for COVID-19.
But Nitish did not sound too keen to fulfil the ‘jumla’ of 19 lakh employment and free vaccine as he had hinted in the first Press conference on November 12 after the NDA victory. Like during the campaign he said that he does not make promises which he does not keep.

If the next Nitish government is not going to create 19 lakh employments–not to speak of vaccine as it has not yet been developed in the world–is it going to change its excise policy. Grapevine has it that he is under pressure to relax as the total prohibition imposed on April 6, 2016 has opened floodgates of corruption. The illegal liquor trade is flourishing throughout Bihar.  While the rich and powerful are minting money, thousands of poor are languishing in the jail for violating the law. There is a strong lobby within the BJP and his own Janata Dal (United) who are against Nitish on this issue.

But once again in his November 12 Press conference Nitish ruled out any immediate change in his prohibition policy by stating that there are 10 per cent people in all the society or country who can break all sorts of laws and rules.
But Nitish is known for U-turns. So many people feel that on this count too he may change his stand in the future as he is getting the feedback that his party did not get the support from those addicted to drinking or are engaged in this illegal business. 

New Excise Policy

It was the same Nitish Kumar government, which on July 1, 2007 implemented a New Excise Policy that gave a big boost to the liquor business. It was then argued that the new move  would increase the revenue of the state manifold, and thus would help the government to undertake developmental works.

However, it was widely criticised as liquor shops cropped up in all the nooks and corners of the state, even remote villages. Cases of domestic violence and crime also jumped.  

Incidentally, the state excise minister then was Sudha Srivastava, a woman and excise secretary, Amir Subhani–both of them had nothing to do with liquor as such. Later Nitish made the chairman of the state’s Haj panel, Jamshed Ashraf as the excise minister.

Apparently he had nothing to do with the liquor business. But on Tilsakraat day, that is January 14, 2010 he handed over a letter to chief minister Nitish Kumar in which he tried to expose the widespread corruption in the excise department. A month later Jamshed was shown the door.

As the women groups in particular continued to oppose, Nitish was under constant pressure to take some steps. He faced protest from women self-help groups in Patna on July 9, 2015. A cornered Nitish announced that he would impose total ban after he is voted back to power. And as per promise he did so.

An election later he is going to face another type of challenge: this time from the anti-prohibition lobby, which appears to be stronger than the women’s groups. Or it can be said that Nitish has become somewhat weak.

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