So, it does seem the Laloo Prasad Yadav era is Bihar is over. His erstwhile ally, Nitish Kumar, has led the JD (U)-BJP combine to a comprehensive win in the Bihar state elections. Laloo is not the only person to have lost his sheen; Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP has been reduced to just 14 seats, which makes them about as relevant in Bihar as the Congress Party. Rediff is carrying a special section documenting the Laloo era in Bihar, including his achievements (reducing communal violence, bringing dignity to lower castes etc). What struck me though were a couple of off-the-record statements made by Laloo, which we need to process fully, to understand the conundrum of why India’s most resource-rich state is also its poorest.
As Sankarshan Thakur wrote, ‘Ask Lalu Yadav [about the lack of development] and he may give you two kinds of responses. ‘If he is on record, he will say, the Centre is “responsible for criminal neglect” of Bihar et al. If he is off record, and in a mood to talk, he will tell you development isn’t an issue for him. “Development, development, what development? My constituency has lived in underdeveloped conditions for hundreds of years. Development is not an issue for them. Development is an urban middle-class demand, that is why the media keeps harping on it. “Hamra log development leke kya karega ji? Bekaar baat karte hain [What will my people do with development? You talk nonsense)]
Nitish Kumar ran on a platform of economic development. Let’s hope the slogans were not just an empty vote-gathering trick, and that Kumar understands why it’s crucial for the country’s fortunes that Bihar snap out of its moribund state and begin to grow rapidly.