New Delhi: On the very first day of the Nitish Kumar-led grand-alliance taking over the reins of power in Bihar, it became crystal clear that Lalu Prasad will play the role of the big brother in this coalition government.
A rejuvenated Lalu Prasad’s grip over this government came to the fore when his two sons, both political rookies, took oath immediately after the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Immediately after the swearing in ceremony, the younger brother Tejashwi was elevated to the rank of Deputy Chief Minister. Lalu has also succeeded in convincing Nitish Kumar to offer plum portfolios to his two sons.
The way Lalu favoured his sons as far as setting up the hierarchy within the government is concerned, has not gone down well with the senior leaders of the RJD if reports emanating from Patna are any indication. Party veterans like Abdul Bari Siddiqui are said to be livid over a political novice like Tejashwi being made the number 2 in the council of ministers.
It’s not that Lalu had his way in deciding the ministerial berths for his party leaders only. Generally, in a coalition government, leaders of the constituent parties decide on the ministerial candidates from their respective parties. However, in this case, Lalu Prasad forced Nitish Kumar to drop two of his close colleagues, Shyam Razak and P K Shahi, from the new council of ministers. Lalu has not forgiven his one-time protégé Shyam Razak for betraying him and the RJD boss doesn’t trust P K Shahi for the role he played in fodder scam related cases as Advocate General of Bihar. It clearly gives an inkling of who will actually call the shots in this government.
The first challenge for Nitish Kumar will be to address the concern on law and order front. Even hard-core supporters of RJD agree that the record of previous RJD governments on this front left much to be desired. By keeping Home ministry and general administration with himself, Nitish Kumar has tried to quell the apprehensions of that section which is finding it difficult to forget the horrors of 15 years of Lalu-Rabri regime. Instead of rewarding police personnel for their loyalties and political leanings, Nitish will have to uphold meritocracy in transfer and posting of officers. That should be the guiding principle, to start with.
The next challenge for Nitish Kumar will be to generate employment in the manufacturing sector. This is crucial if he intends to check the migration of unskilled labourers who form the bulk of Bihar’s human resource power. Unfortunately, investment in manufacturing sector has not picked up in Bihar due to which unskilled work force move to states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Punjab to eke out a living.
What Bihar needs today is an industrial revolution which is not possible in the absence of a robust physical infrastructure. For creating a big network of physical infrastructure, the state will need full support of the centre. From this perspective, a cordial relationship with Modi-led central government is a must for ushering in an era of development in the state.
Central ministers have assured that the 1.25 lakh crore package announced by PM Modi will be disbursed to the state with all sincerity and Nitish Kumar would do well to ensure its proper utilisation without bothering about who will get the credit.
In nutshell, maintaining law and order despite an alliance with RJD, creating robust physical infrastructure, ensuring huge investment in manufacturing sector and maintaining cordial relationship with centre forgetting political enmities are some of the major challenges that Nitish Kumar faces in his 5th innings as Bihar Chief Minister.
Since Lalu Prasad-led RJD has got higher number of seats in Assembly compared to JD(U), Lalu will definitely try his best to enforce his own world view which sounds obsolete and narrow-minded at times, for example his rhetoric of forward-backward fight, and this will make the task much more difficult for Nitish.
Clearly, it will be a tough challenge for Nitish Kumar to strike the right balance between the parochial world-view of Lalu Prasad and the aspirations of that section which has voted for him in the name of development.