THE FACE OF DEMOCRACY

Nitishkumar who rose to prominence as a student leader during the anti-Emergency movement of the 1970s, has been sworn in as chief minister of Bihar for the fourth consecutive term. The state was the epicenter of a movement that ultimately toppled the Congress led Government at the Center. Since the end of the National Emergency it has been ruled by a Party or by a coalition of Parties along with the Governor's rule.Throughout these years, no matter who ruled the state, Lalu prasad Yadav through different incarnations has remained a power to be recognized. During a period when he served time, his wife ran the state as its chief minister. In a caste conscious state, both Nitishkumar and Lalu Yadav come from the Other Backward Castes known as OBC.

Although Yadav and Nitishkumar cut their teeth in the J.P. led movement and were student leaders at the time, their paths through power have been very dissimilar. Lalu has gone to jail in charges of corruption. Nitishkumar remains a politician of good standing. It must be noted that it was his first government that offered a bicycle to girls who completed 10th grade at high school. In rural areas this was a big incentive for parents to keep their daughters at school and empower them against teasing. In a country where formal education for girls is universally neglected, Chief Minister Nitishkumar's method in Bihar was truly a pathfinder. Other states also adopted his method and provided bicycles to keep their girls at school.

Because of many different reasons the use of alcohol has become a scourge all over Bihar. Locally manufactured alcohol mixed with supposedly more potent materials causes many deaths. In economically backward castes the problem has become acute. Alcohol and alcoholism push them further down the path of ruination. Women in many families bear the worst of it. Many social activists wanted the intervention from the government. Thankfully, the Nitish-Government responded. It has been harsh on illegal manufacturing of alcohol and has limited the number of distilleries. Many believe that women of Bihar voted overwhelmingly for his fourth term. Nitishkumar is one of the few in India who have identified with the problems of their respective states and are enjoying the support from the citizenry.Next door in Odisha, Navin Pattanaik, is enjoying his fifth term. By providing jobs, food and certain other benefits he seems to have captured people's hearts. And they have awarded him with their trust. In the same way Mamata Banerjee is in her second term in West Bengal. However, when a person stays on power for too long, a sense of complacency sets in and it is complimented with a feeling of invincibility and beyond replacement.

While not in power, the Opposition Parties are always busy trying to pull down the Government. Such effort causes unnecessary chaos and hampers development. If a Government looks over its shoulder all the time for its survival, then where would it find any creative energy to invest in the welfare of the citizenry? The picture becomes clear when one looks at the situation in India as a whole. In the last election in Bihar the Congress led Mahagathbandhan or the Grand Alliance did not succeed. So it boycotted the swearing in of Nitishkumar. In West Bengal the Left Parties cannot figure out who is the real enemy. The Government of Mamata Banerjee or the BJP's Narfendra Modi..? Dipankar Bhattacharyya, the local Secretary of the CPIM wants to help Mamata to keep the BJP at bay. But WB Party's chairman Biman Bose and CPIM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury think that the Party should fight against the both equally in the next year's election.

Because of the COVID-19 situation, the country's public life has turned upside down. Economic activities in many places have come to a halt. Regardless the color of their flags, political Parties should have been active in building strength among the masses. Instead, they are wasting it by mutual acrimony and hatred. The grand old political Party, the Congress Party, has become weak and tired and appears to have no sense of direction. The ruling Party owns New Delhi but many states do not agree with its operating philosophy. The states do not see the Center as a facilitator. Previously, if two states had a dispute the Home Minister could call the Chief Ministers of both States and he and the prime minister could suggest a solution. No more. States just do not trust the Center. Water disputes over MahendraTanaya between Andhra and Odisha, water disputes between Karnataka and its neighbors have been festering for years. India's vibrant electorate must look at the situation deeply.


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