When the campaign for the recently concluded Assembly election was going on in Bihar there were many independent-minded individuals who would admire the leader of opposition, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, yet they voted for the National Democratic Alliance. Their argument was that since he is too young and in-experienced he would prove a weak and ineffective chief minister who would be unable to handle the state’s bureaucracy. They certainly have their point.
But less than 50 days after the return to power of the National Democratic Alliance government in the state even the biggest champions of the ruling combination, at least in private, concede that Bihar is being ruled by the weakest chief minister in the last many decades. This is the predicament when till a few years back chief minister Nitish Kumar would love to be addressed as the prime ministerial material.
In just less than a fortnight he gave three such statements which openly exposes his utter helplessness. In the last one, given at the national executive meeting of his party on Dec 27 he went on to say that he did not want to become the chief minister after the Assembly election result was finally declared. Without naming anyone he went on to say that the responsibility was thrust upon him. But there is no dearth of people who are not prepared to accept an excuse from the man who would claim that he always stands by his words and never yields to any pressure. Perhaps Nitish is not knowing the significance of his remarks and the impact it would have on the entire bureaucracy and police—from top to bottom.
By first stating that he was not expanding his cabinet just because he had not received any proposal in this regard from the alliance partner the BJP, then saying that the crossing over of six Janata Dal-United MLAs of Arunachal Pradesh to the BJP is nothing unusual and finally saying that he was not keen on becoming the chief minister of Bihar after the last month’s Assembly election Nitish is fast becoming a butt of a joke.
He thinks that by raising the issue of love-jehad he would be able to get the support of some secular elements. But the truth is that most of the people are now just pitying his condition. After all the love-jehad campaign of the saffron party was at its peak when the Assembly election was going on in Bihar and when he made the homecoming to the NDA on July 27, 2017.
The problem with post-election Bihar is that the political executive has become weak. If the chief minister has repeatedly expressed his inability to call the shots, the cabinet has hardly any other powerful minister who enjoys hold over the bureaucracy or permanent executive.
In the previous Nitish government there were figures like deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, and seasoned and experienced ministers like Nand Kishore Yadav and Prem Kumar.
The ministers from the BJP quota and one each from the HAM and VIP are not well-known leaders with any experience of running the government. The Janata Dal-United has a couple of them, for example, Vijay Chaudhary and Bijendra Yadav. But when Nitish himself has lost his clout who is going to listen to them.
Nitish has made former IAS officer R C P Singh as the party’s national president. His daughter and son-in-law are IPS and IAS officers respectively. But RCP himself does not hold the post of any minister.
If things are going out of control in Bihar—not only on the law and order front—it is largely due to the decline in power of the political executive.
This is the tragedy for Bihar.
The author is a senior journalist based in Patna