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The flagging Nitish phenomenon

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is facing an unusual opposition these days. The masses who cheered him on his popular slogans jeer him during his ongoing ‘Adhikar Yatra’.

Published: 30th September 2012 11:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th September 2012 11:00 AM   |  A+A-

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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is facing an unusual opposition these days. The masses who cheered him on his popular slogans jeer him during his ongoing ‘Adhikar Yatra’. They even turned violent at some places putting the CM in a situation akin to house arrest of sorts. Kumar, through his ‘Yatra brand’ of politics, aims to mobilise masses to create pressure on the Central Government to grant special status to Bihar. However, the protestors not only disrupted his party workers’ meetings at places like Bettiah, Darbhanga, Madhubani but also hurled chappals and threw eggs on him. The worst happened at Khagaria where protesters kept him in a situation like house arrest for hours and finally a local politician accused of severe criminal cases, Ranvir Yadav—whose wife Poonam Yadav is local MLA—escorted him to dais. In this process he took the carbine of the official bodyguard of his wife and fired to terrorise the agitators. The vehicles of chief minister and DGP were also attacked on their way to Khagaria and people showed black flags on many places on the way.

The protesters even torched four vehicles and the record room and other properties at the district collectorate in Khagaria district during the chief minister’s ‘Adhikar yatra’.

Just two years ago the people of Bihar gave Kumar historical three-fourth majority and virtually wiped out all political parties. Growth rate, good governance and turnaround became common parlance for academicians and the media to describe the political economy of the state.

“This is simple pressure tactics of the contractual teachers. Initially we appointed them to instantly make available teachers in schools. It was then made clear that it was purely of temporary nature. Now they are trying to blackmail the government,” said Neeraj Kumar, JD(U) spokesperson. He further added that it has nothing to do with common masses; some lumpen elements have taken the front seat. “How can any teacher behave in such a rowdy way?” he asked.

Bihar government had appointed about 2.5 lakh teachers in 2006 just after Kumar came to power. They were given a meagre salary of `5,000 to `8,000 with no other facilities like pension, medical support as given to regular teachers.

Questions were raised on their quality as most of them are quite substandard. Now they feel frustrated that even a peon gets more than their salary. “The agitation is spontaneous after a long simmering discontent among masses of the state as the government has failed miserably on all fronts. Common people are deeply frustrated with rising corruption in all government establishments. This is purely people’s agitation. I bet currently no opposition party in Bihar can mobilise people on such a large scale,” said Abdul Bari Siddiqui, leader of Opposition in the legislative assembly and senior RJD leader.

Lakhs of para teachers, para medical staff, panchayat-level staff may follow the same course to pressurise the government. However, no government can afford to bear such a huge economic burden.

The moot point is: while Kumar is projected as prime ministerial material, he is facing outcry of masses on his home turf. The chief minister always felt that he connected with common people through ‘yatra’. But the Opposition alleged that he organised different yatras with sole political motive at government expenses.

In most of the earlier yatras, he announced a number of projects like construction of stadium and roads. But after a number of yatras, most of these projects are still in limbo.

The public outrage has given enough occasions to Opposition leaders to fish in troubled waters and analysts to ponder over whether Bihar is returning to old days. The CM in his first term performed quite well but in his second term he is more active in promoting himself as a national leader. Now, the outcry may be a warning signal for Kumar to gauge public mood and pursue the politics of masses.

 

-Sunday Standard



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