The Indian Economy Blog

November 22, 2005

Development, Development, What Development?

Filed under: Politics — Reuben Abraham @ 8:46 pm

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.


  1. This may mean more reforms for Bihar, but I wonder what the implications are for overall reform in India. One would suspect that a government in Bihar guided by good economic policy, would only help facilitate more reforms at the centre. But the truth is Congress has lost more power in Delhi, and the BJP which is allied to the winning JDU has up to this point been anything but easy to work with.

    Comment by Patel — November 22, 2005 @ 9:52 pm

  2. I think this augurs well for Bihar.Not that Nitish is much better than Mr Lalu himself – evryone knows what he did when he was railway minister at the centre…

    Lalu’s right – development is a non-issue for people who’ve lived without it for centuries on end.But for the people of Bihar , I seriously hope that Nitish shows them a world they havent seen yet.And i’m sure if he does, they’ll come after him hankering for more.

    Comment by Rohit Pradhan — November 22, 2005 @ 9:59 pm

  3. Patel,
    You’re right. I have often wondered why the BJP doesn’t offer a helping hand to the Congress on crucial reforms (labour/infrastructure/power) that they broadly agree on, which would allow Messrs Singh/Chidambaram to bypass the left on occasion. As I have mentioned on this blog once before, the trouble with opposition parties in India is that they take the term too literally and don’t seem to understand the concept of constructive opposition.

    Comment by Reuben Abraham — November 22, 2005 @ 10:01 pm

  4. [...] cape

    Neha on 11.22.05 in Politics at 3:00 pm

    The Bihar elections have changed political equations in the belt. Reube [...]

    Pingback by DesiPundit » Bihar Politi-scape — November 23, 2005 @ 12:03 am

  5. I wish Nitish Kumar all the best. I hope he should make some changes to the Police which is almost defunct and do something about those local goondas.
    As for Paswan, I feel hes damaged his reputation by not moving in with the JD(U). He should have done that long back in Feb.(his intentions were very honest though he didnt have the muscle to have a CM from his party)

    Comment by Rahul M — November 23, 2005 @ 1:27 am

  6. I’m not really that familiar with Indian politics, so please forgive my ignorance, but this alliance deal bugs me. According to wikipedia, this the same party that has provided Bangalore with local anti-development favorite Deve Gowda. What is the party’s ideology, where does Kumar stand on these issues? Is Bihar going to see actualy infrastructure development, better schools and more police officers, or instead are we going to see more political pandering?

    Comment by AK — November 23, 2005 @ 9:38 am

  7. AK, I don’t think there’s an Indian political party out there that actually has an ideology. They’re all about political expediency and doing and saying whatever will win them votes. So, I don’t think there is any point in looking for clues on how Kumar will behave from Gowda’s antics in Karnataka.

    The possibility of a turn-around in Bihar is pretty slim, but one can always hope…

    Comment by Reuben Abraham — November 23, 2005 @ 10:30 am

  8. There are some positive signs. This guy Kumar seems to be honest and has just one kid! Compared to Laloo, looks like Kumar is a huge, huge improvement. I hope the congress can set aside their politics and work with Kumar to improve things in Bihar on a war footing.

    Comment by sv — November 23, 2005 @ 11:57 am

  9. What this implies is that after 15 years, Bihar is going to have an effective change in government. It’s heartening not because the new government will necessarily be better (though it can hardly be worse), but because it seems that for the first time, the people of Bihar have not voted ‘along caste lines.’ I put the latter in quotes because they may still have done that in part, but they have rejected Laloo’s theory that governance does not matter so long as he is perceived as a messiah for the lower castes. This result, combined with the NDA’s own defeat last year, may constitute a turning point for the country. Several politicians, specially those on the Left, had interpreted NDA’s defeat last year as a signal to roll back on economic reforms, saying that the reforms had not reached the poor. This result, should make our politicians aware that a population condemned to years of stagnant growth will ultimately throw out the government – whether or not that population is poor. It should also signal to the politicians that the time may have come to tone down the caste rhetoric during elections – as the country develops and people see what is possible through economic reform, caste equations will matter less and less, and governance will matter more and more.

    Comment by Aniruddh Gupta — November 23, 2005 @ 1:09 pm

  10. Reuben,
    The vicious personality driven nature of indian politics is responsible for the bjp not supporting the upa on issues it conceptualised like vat etc. if there was greater maturity on the part of both the cong and the bjp to set political or idealogical agendas then national interest would take precedence. that congress folk still talk on tv about the bihar victory of communal forces is bizarre when you consider that jdu won votes from across the communal and caste spectrum ! witness brinda karat shrieking about anything the bjp does and you know what i mean. the visceral hatred exhibited prevents each from acknowledging the good in the other. how then can a country progress? i dont know about any of you but i am licking my lips at the thought of K J Raos activities in West Bengal next year . Take on the comrades, Mr Rao, I just cannot wait !!

    Comment by Ila Bhat — November 23, 2005 @ 8:40 pm

  11. Reuben, I think our politics not being based on ideology may be a blessing in disguise, considering our socialist experience ;) I don’t think either the BJP or the Congress is going to oppose important bills to the point where they have to be shelved. Yes, there will be much sabre rattling, but that is for public consumption and posturing. Even the left cannot go on sabotaging all reform, considering Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is taking a radical departure from the official party line in Bengal.

    Comment by Nanda Kishore — November 25, 2005 @ 1:36 pm

  12. AK: The Parties in Karnataka and Bihar are different. The Karnataka Party headed by Deve Gowda is called Janata Dal (S) – S standing for secular, that magic word in India. The Bihar party in which Nitish Kumar is a senior leader is called Janata Dal (U), U for united.

    But once upon a time, not too far back, S & U were united and considered themselves secular. Of course, before the union, they were split, before which they were united (as Janata Dal), and this goes on and on!

    U is not considered secular enough since they dally around with BJP. S is not at all united… since just a few months back they split further with Deve Gowda chucking a very senior leader called Siddharamaiah (who was at that time the Deputy Chief Minister of the state) – a lower caste leader, in order to push his own son.

    Following Indian politics is more fun than following Indian cricket!

    Comment by Badri Seshadri — November 25, 2005 @ 4:03 pm

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