Saturday, December 4, 2010

Who is U.P.'s Nitish Kumar?

After fifteen years of government-sponsored anarchy, Bihar has had a government for the past five years which reintroduced good governance, repaired old roads, built new ones where required, and started many welfare projects for the poor and other deprived sections of society. The people of Bihar rewarded him by giving him another term of five years, this time with overwhelming majority. Like his bete noire Narendra Modi, Nitish has made development fashionable in politics.

But the politics of development seems to have stopped at the Bihar-Uttar Pradesh border. U.P. is still embroiled in the politics of identity and caste arithmetic. There the biggest projects completed by the state government are memorials for Dalit icons over hundreds of acres of land and costing about rupees three thousand crore. And this in a state which almost makes the bottom among all Indian states on various social development indices!

There is a real chance that the U.P.'s ruling party, facing a badly splintered opposition and feeling reinvigorated by a favourable judgment by the Supreme Court, would call the state elections in early 2011 more than a year before they would be due in the normal course. The state could thus be looking at five more years of non-development and resultant backwardness. U.P.'s Nitish Kumar is nowhere in sight and the state is going to pay dearly for that.

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