Battle of Patliputra is the Litmus Test for Rahul Gandhi


Manohar Lal Yadav

(Bihar Election Watch)Bihar is currently rated as the most under-developed state of the country. However, we forget how the state was ill managed since the British times. It didn't happen in a day and it will take some time to return to the path of progress. THE MOST glorious chapter of Indian history, culture and civilization emanates from the land what is now known as Bihar. This was once the seat of the greatest university of the world; this is where the concept of republic was conceptualised and concreted; Gautama Buddha, Mahavira Jain, Chanakya and the great emperor Ashoka belonged to this place. Even in modern times this place served as the treasure of mineral reserves of the country. Yet the state is known by the goons like Anant Singh and is identified with the politicians like Laloo Prasad Yadav. There are certain historical reasons for this downfall.

According to Saibal Gupta, member-secretary of the Asian Development Research Institute, Patna, Bihar was placed under the Permanent Settlement of 1793 by the British. This meant the land was not held by the farmers but by zamindars, who had the right to collect revenue and pay a percentage of that to the British.

The zamindars began to exploit the farmers for more and more. They themselves did nothing to develop the land’s productivity. The rest of India had the ryotwari system, where the land belonged to the farmers, who paid taxes to the state directly and were therefore interested in keeping the productivity high.

Secondly, most of those involved in the 1857 mutiny were from Bihar. After the mutiny, the British clamped down hard on Bihar, and Bihar in retaliation turned against everything British or Western. Thus, they failed to modernise and accept new ideas that were sweeping across the country.

Culturally, Bihar is part of the Gangatic belt and closely linked to Benaras. In Benaras, Hindi began to grow in opposition to English and in this opposition, instead of the language embracing modernism and emancipating its people, it embraced the past and traditionalism and all the old ideas that actually kept Bihar backwards.

Finally, land reforms failed in Bihar because the politicians and bureaucrats, who were to implement such reforms, all came from the landlord class and thus ensured that such reforms were never really implemented on the ground. Thus, the peasant here remained deprived of land and a means of livelihood; he remained dependent on the landlords for his very survival.

The lack of Bihar sub nationalism has also hurt Bihar. Traditionally, there have been two forms of nationalism in the north: Indian and caste nationalism. A Bihari was always an Indian and of so-and-so caste; whereas in Maharashtra, a person was an Indian, a Maharashtrian, and then of his caste. What this means is that there is no one to speak up for Bihar. For instance, when Bihar was partitioned, there were no voices that opposed the decision, no one to really challenge such a move. Can you imagine partitioning Karnataka or any other state? Even if it were to happen, there will be huge protests and it will be a long process.

Another example was that when the government introduced the freight equalisation policy, no Bihari thought it fit to protest against this most silly economic idea. Furthermore, there was no voice to demand compensation for Bihar when Jharkhand was made a separate state. And within Bihar, there is none who really cares for Bihar. Every Bihari politician is concerned about his caste only. Worse, caste members expect their leaders to work for the caste, not for the state, so a leader can only ignore his caste at his own peril. The freight equalisation policy meant that transport was not to be considered an input cost. This meant that a factory could be set up anywhere in India and the transportation of minerals would be subsidised by the central government. This in turn simply destroyed Bihar’s huge competitive advantage (of holding the minerals) and factories were set up everywhere else than in Bihar. Now the freight equalisation policy has been removed, but Bihar simply lacks the infrastructure to compete with other states.

The deep politics-crime nexus in a sense can be traced back to the JP (Jayaprakash Narayan) Movement (1973 to 1975). JP urged an end to all ideology and exhorted people to participate in politics sans ideology. At that time the socialists were very strong in Bihar.

After JP’s call, many people joined politics even if they did not believe in the party’s ideology. This destroyed the party structure and prevented the party from having an organisation that could mobilise support. So, after the JP Movement ended and politicians needed to mobilise support, they turned to local criminals, who invariably had some kind of an organisation and the money and muscle power to mobilise support. Thus it was that the criminals became a part and parcel of Bihar’s political set-up. It is also because of the destruction of party structures that parties have become family affairs.

Now, the backwards and the most backward Dalits are demanding their rights. So this process is still on. It is not yet complete and needs a few years from completion. The good news is that it is taking place but till then some such violence will continue. For things to improve, three factors are very important.


First, social inequity has to go away or decrease dramatically. Over the years, with the empowerment of the lower castes, social inequity has come down a bit, but it remains deeply embedded. Second, land reforms have to take place. Even now, too much land is held by too few, and this only reinforces the social inequity that is so prevalent. And linked to land is the third factor: the strategy of the ownership of the land. Biharis need to feel that this is their state and that it matters to them.

From the year 2000 , Lalu Prasad Yadav emerged as a top leader and remained Chief Minister for good fifteen years ( Rabri Devi was just a proxy ) . He is famous for his charismatic leadership and mass appeal and has been criticised for caste-based politics and the corruption cases against him


Yadav's party is alleged to have continued in power for several years on the strength of the Muslim-Yadav combination vote bank and is considered extremely popular among members of both communities. His brand of politics has caused a great deal of resentment among some caste groups like Bhumihars, because Lalu Yadav centered his government to raise the extremely pitiable life style of lots of poor people. So some people of higher caste dislike him because those poor people are announced as untouchable according Brahmanical system in India. So Yadav were criticised by Bhumihars for aggravating caste divisions through his policies, and also admirered for helping disadvantaged groups out of a belief in secularism and social justice. Yadav's achievement is reflected from his famous quote, “ I've not given them (the poor people of Bihar) heaven, but I've given them a voice .

Lalu dominated Bihar politics for a considerable period and even created a world-record of being the best Railway Minister who was invited by top management schools viz ; Harvard ,IIM, Ahemdabad. But by 2005 ,Biharis were tired of his leadership .They accused him of being a custodian of goons , a wily politician mired in corruption and a poor performer on the development & law / order front . His party was replaced by Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and BJP -combine . As we approach the Durga Puja festival , Bihar is ready for its historical battle once again . On one side , it is Nitish Kumar - the civil Engineer turned Politician, on the other is JD (U) & his coalition partner -BJP .His association with BJP is more of a liability than asset .Continued fissures within BJP , Off and on - murmur by JD(U) rank and file ( and by leaders like Shiva nand Tiwari ) for survival of its unholy alliance with BJP will continue to dog Nitish Kumar till the election day .This greatly reduces his gained-points on account of his marvellous track-record as a remarkable Chief Minister ,who managed to change the notorious name of Bihar into an acceptable state at the global-level .

Lallu is back on his popular style of compaign .He has the advantage of being out of power .And he seems to have gained a solid ground - courtesy Rambilas Paswan ( a tireless Dalit Leader ) amongst the Dalits and also RAJPUTS besides his previous vote bank of MY ( Muslims & Yadavs ) intact . Much though the political chemistry of Bihar was understood to be between Nitish -BJP VS Lalu-Paswan ( One called friend turned foes -the acid , which burnt the Bihar ) .

But in last few days , the chemistry is changing with the Third Factor -The Congress party’s seriousness to fight this battle with full vigour . The Congress party has simply no presence in Bihar .But with the entry of Congress Party’s crown Prince Rahul Gandhi , in a fire-brand style , seems to be changing the chemical reactions .The political pundits have begun to voice that the catalyst ( Congress party ) might upset the traditional -chemical -formualae .It is noteworthy that of late , Rahul Gandhi is touring the country without even a full-night’s sleep .His meeting at Nimyagiri ( Orissa ) forced the Professors of POLITICAL ideologies to brand him as a socialist .And his non-stop tour of Bihar has put Ganga on the heat . His asset is his-gradually-earned goodwill amongst the Youth & his excellent team . His political -lieutenant , the Secy Of AICC ,as we can all see , the Young M.P.- Jitendra Singh - an erstwhile Prince of a state in Rajasthan is contributing to build the Youth - power day in -day out . Another important issue that is likely to come up in this election compaign is that of approach in handling The naxalism in the State .Nitish sees this with a humane –eye , so does Mani Shankar Aiyar & Digvijay Singh of the Congress party .The Congress high command ought to field these senior leaders to match the Nitish Kumar ,s compassionate appeal .

We might be caught wondering on the out-come of Bihar poll if RAHUL GANDHI and his team continue to tour Bihar with the same zeal and enthusiasm till the election day .His pot-shots on Nitish Kumar during his last visit to Bihar have shaken up the confident CM .His attacks on JD(U) for their unholy-alliance with BJP ran through the spines of Secular leaders in JD(U) AND so spoke Shivanand Tiwari .It seems Rahul Gandhi will help bag the Congress Party minimum fifty seats if not more .

The views expressed by the author are personal.


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