Janata Dal United (JD-U) leader Nitish Kumar may have somehow passed the electoral test of Bihar but his “agnipariksha” is only just to begin.
With an alarming rise in incidents of crime following his swearing-in as the chief minister for the fourth consecutive term and the BJP questioning his governance in public, Nitish is desperately trying to prove his worth and utility while clinching on to the throne merely at the mercy of his saffron ally.
Nitish once meant business, but now, as it seems, no one is taking his words or warnings seriously, as is evident from the prevailing law and order situation in the state, which remarkably deteriorated following the JD(U) chief’s return to the Bihar throne following a bitterly fought assembly elections.
In the past fortnight, the chief minister himself held meetings with top officials thrice over how to curb crimes, but the result has been a big zero, even prompting the BJP to slam its own coalition government in public.
“While on way to Patna from Betia, I encountered a group of villagers blocking the road. They told me incidents of theft have become an order of the day but when they informed the local Turkaulia police station in-charge, he threatened to arrest them,” state BJP president and parliamentarian Sanjay Jaiswal wrote on Facebook earlier this month. He added he would personally meet the DGP and apprise him of the overall situation in the state.
This was the first time in 15 years that the BJP had publicly joined the opposition in slamming the “state of lawlessness” in the state.
The BJP has emerged as the dominant partner of Nitish Kumar this time by emerging as the single-largest party in the NDA, bagging 74 seats alone. The JD(U) headed by Nitish, on the other hand, finished distant third with 43 seats, ending up as a junior partner of the BJP for the first time in 15 years. Although the BJP has handed over the throne of the chief minister to Nitish as per its pre-poll commitment, it doesn’t appear to be in a mood to tolerate him anymore over issue of governance, and this has suddenly increased pressure on the chief minister.
“The NDA has returned to power banking on the achievements and personal charisma of Prime Minister Narandra Modi ji. You must have seen how Nitish Kumar ji eagerly waited for the PM to address election rallies in Bihar and he followed him almost everywhere. The masses voted for the NDA after listening to the speeches of the PM, not the CM. So, bigger responsibility has fallen on our shoulders this time and we can’t ignore further,” said a BJP leader wishing not to be quoted.
The situation on the ground is really very serious this time. In the past one month, several incidents of murders, loot, kidnapping and rapes have taken place in the state but what is more horrible is that the criminals have literally gone berserk, cracking at their will and fleeing the scene without getting challenged.
The kidnapping of a female doctor in Sitamarhi, a junior engineer working with MNREGA in Saharsa and two teenager students in Begusari for ransom are ample to explain the ground situation.
Likewise, robbers have been raiding business establishments and banks with impunity. The loot of gold ornaments worth ₹10 crore from a jewellery shop in Darbhanga, loot of cash and foreign currencies from Unimoni Financial Services Limited office in Siwan, robbery of ₹6.73 lakh from another private finance office and then ₹6.65 from IDBI bank in Begusarai explain the situation well. The incidents of rapes and gang-rapes too are no exception.
Political watchers say criminals never looked so daredevil in the past 15 years as they are today and they blame it on gradual weakening of the chief minister and his recent move to switch sides at repeated intervals. They say the chief minister has lost much of his sheen in the past 15 years and he himself is to blame for the situation.
Nitish, whose party has been pushed to a distant third slot in the Bihar assembly this time, grabbed the throne of Bihar from Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in 2005, promising to establish “rule of law” and “good governance” in the state. He literally fulfilled his commitment in the first term and it was because of this that, he won the next elections with a historic mandate. Also, in the initial years, he not only focussed on governance but also tried hard to prove his words carried a lot of weight.
The problem began only after his second term where a virtual competition began between him and Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat. An overambitious politician always dreaming of becoming the prime minister committed the first blunder by dumping the NDA in 2013, second by publicly shaking hands with Lalu Prasad and the third by returning to the same BJP about which he once had said, “Mitti me mil jayenge lekin BJP se haath nahin milayenge (I will rather be reduced to ashes than joining hands with BJP).”
“None is taking note of the chief minister since he himself doesn’t follow his own commitments,” said RJD president and former minister Jagadanad Singh. “But this time, he has crossed another milestone. He has occupied the throne by hook or crook. So, it doesn’t carry any weight and the criminals too are very much aware of this,” he added. “Unki kursi me koi takat nahin hai aur jahan takat nahi hoti wahan apradh belagam hota hai (there is no strength in his throne and crime is unbridled where there is no strength).”
State JD(U) spokesperson Sanjay Singh condemned the statement of the state RJD chief and described it as “below dignity”.