Posts Tagged ‘Bihar’

The other day, someone asked me why I had stopped blogging, because he felt the present moment would be the right time to express one’s opinion on the numerous issues surrounding us. To be honest, I had developed an aversion to writing these last few months for quite a few reasons. One of them was the politics. I love writing about politics, but it had turned into a no-holds-barred slanging match between those who hated Narendra Modi and those who admired him. Just like the infamous Dubya quote (“you’re either with us or against us”) Indian politics had been reduced to a slugfest and anyone interested in a third option was ridiculed, insulted and hounded into silence!

Some of my pro-Modi friends thought I was a Modi fan, just because I argued that the Gujarat violence happened in 2002 (and just like the horrific events in Delhi post the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984). Secondly, since no court in the land had either held him guilty or responsible for what happened in Gujarat, I was willing to move on and give him the chance to prove whether he was as efficient as some people thought he was. And that is when my friends who make up the anti-Modi club went after me. And frankly, their reaction was pretty vicious. People who I thought were rational in their thinking had suddenly become strangers. They were spewing venom at me, and that left me extremely disturbed.  That is why except for the occasional tweet I fell silent. I have never been extreme in my reactions or views on anything except maybe Indian cricket (!), so I was even more shocked by the reactions from people I thought I knew well. It was an eye-opener.

I also noticed that whenever I tweeted anything against the Congress it was either re-tweeted or ‘favourited’ . Good for me, because it increased my followers, but it also helped me understand, to a little extent, the mind of the people,  My antipathy to the Congress party is obvious and while I am not going to get into that now, I don’t buy into the Congress argument that the development in Gujarat is just a mirage.  Maybe it isn’t as high as Modi followers claim it is, but it couldn’t be worse than Uttar Pradesh or Bihar – two states that make me feel ashamed of being Indian. I have lived in both these states and both are a grim reminder of everything wrong with governance and politics in this country.

What politicians have done in these two states is nothing short of criminal and some of these fellows should rot in a jail for their misdemeanours. Unfortunately they still flourish because they feed off the poor and illiterate voter. Look at Odisha. People are still selling their children and other family members because they don’t have enough money to buy one square meal. When people living in villages feed of rats and cockroaches instead of rice and dal there is something fundamentally wrong with governance in the country. Take Maharashtra for instance. Farmers have been dying in Vidarbha by the dozens but yet politicians like Sharad Pawar shrug it away as something of little consequence. When dams dry up and drought looms on the horizon, ministers like Ajit Pawar ask if they should pee in the dams.  Who do I blame for that?

There is a section of liberals, fundamentalists and Modi-haters who may rant on about the fact that he doesn’t deserve to be prime minister for the sins of Gujarat, but unfortunately (for them), Modi seems to be the majority’s choice and if majority opinions translate into votes then Modi it will be – whether we like it or not. In other words, we get the politician and the government we deserve.

To me, Narendra Modi is no better or worse than any other politician this country has had since 1947. There have been many others like him who have pretended that they had no hand in riots that erupted in their States.  There have been so many politicians and prime ministers who have either engineered caste and religious riots in the country or have done nothing when riots occurred, and have then shed crocodile tears for the dead. Modi is just another one of the same breed.

That is why my admiration for Arvind Kejriwal has grown. A year ago no one in his right mind would have thought that Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party would be taken seriously by the political class or the country’s media. Today he is being spoken of as a future prime minister – a bit far-fetched, I think, but what the hell – no harm in dreaming! Here have been many politicians who made a

Why has he suddenly become a political force, and more importantly, someone who is being feared by the political class? The feeling I get is they don’t really know what he’ll do next. They thought he would protest time and again and go back to governing, like they do. Instead, he spent a night on the street! They thought he would protest for his JanLokpal Bill and go back to his CM’s cabin. Instead, he put in his papers. How many chief ministers would do that? Heck, how many politicians would quit on principle on any issue in this country? When was the last time one did? Madhavrao Scindia, when he was civil aviation minister, following an air crash on December 5, 1992?

Look at what happened in the aftermath of the latest submarine disaster? The Navy chief quit, but the minister stuck to his chair like a leech, and what is worse is that the prime minister defended him. While he accepted that the Navy chief had done the right thing by resigning, he defended his minister for not resigning! But no one thought much about all that, because they were more interested in running down Kejriwal and his party.  And all these jibes and taunts from the media and rivals about his style of politicking have only given Kejriwal the publicity he so badly wanted to bring him onto the national stage.

To me, it is quite simple. Anyone who can make life miserable for the likes of Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Mulayam and the rest, gets my total support! Whatever may be the fate of Kejriwal and his fledgling party in these elections, one has to admit that he has brought in something different from the run-of-the-mill politicians we have been used to all these years. If he is showing them up for the crooks they have been all these years, good for the voter. So more power to the aam aadmi!!


The two things about the just concluded elections in Bihar, apart from Nitish’s victory, that I am really happy about are 1) the demolition of the Laloo charisma 2) proof that Rahul Gandhi is a DUD as a politician and a vote puller. Sorry ladies, just being “cute” and good-looking are not the criteria for becoming an astute leader. But we’ll come to No. 2 later.

The election results in Bihar have certainly been a revelation. The amazing thing was that women voters outnumbered the men. In a state like Bihar where criminals have always outnumbered the honest politicians, and women usually bear the brunt at home or on the street, the fact that they outnumbered the men, just means that they put their trust in Nitish Kumar. And I don’t think Bihar ever witnessed any such thing before.

Let’s be honest, it’s going to take Nitish or any other chief minister at least another two decades to undo the mess created by Laloo and his wife. Nitish has already said that he doesn’t have a magic wand and I think we should let him do his job. Thankfully, I think even the BJP realise that they have a good thing going with Nitish and to indulge in petty politicking would also harm their interests.

I left Bihar in 1967 and not ONCE since then have I felt like either going back or have ever liked to admit that I’m from Bihar. Please note that I do not say I’m a Bihari, because my mother was a Malayali, who lived all her adult life everywhere except South of the Vindhyas.

Since 1967, this is the first time I am not embarrassed to admit that I’m from Bihar. Every time someone said the word ‘Bihari’ I would cringe! And all this because of one man – Laloo Prasad Yadav! The man may have a fan following among the film stars and he may have his diehard followers, but as the phrase goes “it takes one to know one”. To the rest of the people, who believe in good governance and who have left Bihar for various reasons, he is just a sweet talking fraudster, who took the people of the State and the country for one hell of a ride.

I’ve heard horror stories from people who have lived all their lives there about the way the State was mismanaged by Laloo. To say that it left me shocked would be an understatement. Like this very well-known jeweller’s family who met us when we visited Patna to request my mother for admissions for their two children in schools in far away Ooty. This was to ensure that the kids would not fall prey to those who had made kidnapping an industry and were all on the payroll of powerful politicians. They (the jewellers) travelled in jeeps with gun-toting guards and had a three-tier security set-up at home. One of them told us how in his presence a very, very powerful politician spoke to one of the kidnappers and requested him to reduce the ransom amount!

That was Laloo’s Bihar and while I am not saying that every MLA in Nitish’s party is clean, I think he has probably learnt from Laloo’s style of functioning that surrounding himself with criminal elements is hardly going to help his cause. And after the kind of victory he has just achieved, he would be a fool to fraternise with the lumpen elements who were Laloo’s support staff. Nitish could have inadvertently made Laloo a hero by foisting cases against him like the animal husbandry scam. But he didn’t, and allowed Laloo to discredit himself. Also, the fact that Rabri lost from both places she contested, should have been an eye-opener for the man who thought his silver tongue was enough to bring him back into the CM’s residence.

Now coming to Rahul Gandhi and his so-called charisma — sorry ladies, he ain’t got it! The squeaky-voiced Rahul is no patch on his father or his grandmother. Travelling in Mumbai locals or with passengers in a second class compartment in UP is hardly the way to learn governance. I think Nitish hit the nail on the head when he said that Rahul should become a chief minister before trying to be prime minister.

This must be the only country in the world where prime ministers and chief ministers are anointed and not elected. It almost makes the royals in the United Kingdom seem common in front of this ‘royal’ family in India. When will the people of this country follow Bihar’s example and tell the Gandhis that this country and its assets are not their personal fiefdom?

Oh, and a small suggestion to the lady in 10, Janpath. If she really wants to win the next election, she should tell her son to crawl back under the rock he came from, and ask her daughter to take over the reins. If anyone can take the grand old party back to its glory days, when the real Mrs G was in control, it is Priyanka. She is the one who will bring in the votes, not Rahul.

Yesterday while watching a Hindi news channel, I came across a clip of a voter being interviewed. This guy was a non-resident Indian, who hadn’t missed a Bihar election since he migrated to the US some 40 years ago. During every election he flew down to Bihar and cast his vote. When asked why he did it, he said “I love my state, love my town Darbhanga, and consider it my duty to vote.”

Bihar is going to elect a new chief minister and both Nitish Kumar and Laloo Yadav are expecting to win. For someone who spent his first nine years in that chaotic place, I won’t be surprised if even that happens! I generally have a very low opinion of Bihar and very few good things to say about it, whenever I’m asked, because I think, and so do a lot of others, that it’s beyond repair.

I don’t know how good a chief minister Nitish Kumar is, but Biharis tell me that Bihar has changed for the better ever since he took over and he is doing his damndest to restore some sanity there. But the problem is that politicians before him have so totally ravaged its resources that there is very little left to salvage. It’s a bit like pumping life-saving drugs into someone in the final stages of cancer. If Dr. Nitish Kumar can cure Bihar of this terminal illness it would be a miracle. So, unlike the conscientious Bihari from the US, I am, unfortunately, unable to generate that kind of enthusiasm for the place.

I too was born in a small town of Bihar called Bhagalpur, and till my father’s death in 1995, we owned ancestral property in Darbhanga. When I flew down to Patna from Mumbai in 1994, to visit my critically ill father in Darbhanga, I don’t think I was prepared for what I was about to experience. From the time I got off at Varanasi airport to the time I finally left Patna, it was one unpleasant experience after another.

I was hit by an overbearing stench as I exited Patna Junction well after midnight looking for a hotel. The reason for this was that the conservancy workers were demanding a pay hike and thought the best way to bring that to the notice of the government was to pile up garbage over a foot high on the road leading to the town from Patna Junction. Then there was a power cut in the town and only the big hotels could afford to keep the power running. I was stuck in one that couldn’t.

The next day I set off for Darbhanga and on the way my brother’s friend gave me an account of the horror stories about the badlands of Bihar. About how kidnapping had become a way of life; how the ministers and other high profile politicians were themselves in on the cut from the kidnappers; how businessmen were now keeping hired guns and electronic surveillance in their homes for protection; how women were abducted when they were travelling with their husbands, whisked away at gunpoint and raped.

(I did have one pleasant experience in Patna sometime in the early 1990s when I was returning from a friend’s place. As I was looking for a rickshaw to take me back to my sister’s place in Pataliputra Colony, I was stopped at a police post. I had downed a few and the cop could obviously smell the whisky on my breath. When the questioning began to get a little interrogative, I said I was a journalist. Immediately the questioning stopped, and the cop asked me to get into a parked Maruti Gypsy and set off. I had no clue where he was headed till he asked me the house number. I realised I was on a familiar road and he soon stopped the Gypsy at my sister’s place! I wondered what would have happened if I had not disclosed I was a scribe.)

So as as we reached Kansi Simri, it seemed like any semblance of civilisation had been left far behind. Filth and squalor greeted us as we made our way to the village. My father’s palatial house was, itself, crumbling and I think it mirrored the general decay of the place. I mean if the ‘zamindar’ of the land was living in such a dilapidated surroundings, what could you expect from his village?

One evening I decided to go walkabout in the village and was even more appalled by what I saw. After nearly fifty years if this is what our villages had been reduced to, I thought there was something drastically wrong with our system. I could see the hunger and deprivation in the eyes of the naked children playing in the dirt. They say a hungry man is an angry man. How long, I wondered, before someone decided they had had enough and picked up a gun?

You could blame the politicians for fanning the flames, but do you think anyone would turn to violence as a means to an end, unless he realised that all other avenues were closed, and the gun was his last act of desperation. I asked a couple of villagers why they never approached the collector or the local leaders for help and they shrugged their shoulders. That said it all – complete apathy by the administration and a slow and hardening realisation that it was each man for himself and the devil take hindmost. Can you blame them for turning naxal?

They say people get the government they deserve. For years, people conned by his mantra of social justice, voted Laloo to power. All he did in the decade or so when he was CM was to fill his pockets and completely bastardize the post of the chief minister. If the people of Bihar vote Laloo and his cohorts back to power, they deserve no better than to wallow in the poverty and criminal way of life that had become a hallmark during his time.