If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Monday, 9 November 2015

Has Bihar confirmed that India will survive?

After the spectacular victory of the alliance of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad, and Congress yesterday, I put a short three-line post on my FB page that read:
I bow to the people of Bihar. They have once again reiterated that the only possible idea for India is a democratic and pluralistic India. Let there be early Diwali, let fireworks light up the horizons of India, and everywhere else for people who value democracy, including people in Pakistan. Cheers.
I would like to share with you the response I got, particularly the negative responses. But before that, let’s go back in time for a moment.
For the last two years, it has been horrifying to note the deluge of bitter, uncouth, abusive remarks made by Hindutwa supporters on the social media against anyone who has a different opinion from theirs. I have wondered how people of a particular political camp could be so intolerant and aggressive. And I also wondered if there were really so few people among the social media users who would stand up for
  • freedom of speech and rational enquiry,
  • not redrawing the educational map of the country to suit political agenda,
  • running institutions by experts and not by incompetent people with “right” political connections,
  • respecting women, and finally,
  • religious tolerance and treating minorities with the respect every citizen deserves, nothing more, nothing less.
But yesterday, not only did the common man in Bihar give a categorical verdict against all that, since then, the common people of India has shown, through thousands of Facebook posts and tweets, that they support a democratic and pluralistic India. This I believe is as important as the victory of the alliance in Bihar. Even my humble three-line post on FB has got 61 likes, 16 comments, and two shares.
While thirteen of the commentators agreed with me three of my friends disagreed and questioned the choice made by Bihar. One of them, a well-known motivational speaker, wrote, “Yes, people like Lalu should be Prime Minister. The right leader for the right country!!”
Another close friend for whom I have a lot of regard wrote somewhat angrily: “What is your view on the Great Lalu? Do you feel Bihar shall not return to the good old days of "Lalu” (jungle) raj? How can a conscious person like yourself support a corrupt buffoon? Strange!”
Another friend too said something very similar.
I am absolutely certain what they have expressed is their genuine fear, and it is not unfounded. However, aren't all elections in India exercises to choose the least evil? In this case on one side was Nitish Kumar, a positive force beyond a shadow of a doubt. I agree Lalu will most probably pull him down and make his life difficult. I too fear that at least some of Lalu’s goons will return and there might be pockets of jungle raj in Bihar.
But on the other side was BJP, which has been attacking the very foundation of a pluralistic India. The people of Bihar have displayed tremendous political sagacity by rejecting a party which, given a free hand, will turn India into a Hindu Pakistan.

Coming back to Nitish Kumar, let me share with you a personal anecdote. When I went to Patna in 2012 to run some workshops, a taxi driver took me around the city. I was surprised to see a spick-and-span city. There was NOT ONE encroachment on the roads – only a few push carts selling peanuts etc. (Nitish’s new admirer, Ms Mamta Banerjee will do well to visit Patna instead of London to observe a model city. Eighty percent of Kolkata footpaths has been taken over by hawkers with her blessings.) At 9.00 in the evening, I saw young girls unescorted, going around laughing and enjoying themselves (something that is not happening in Kolkata anymore). The cab driver said, ‘Saab, I wouldn’t have taken you around at this time 10 years ago. Both you and I would have been robbed by now.’
He also added that there was something called “Rangdari Tax” in Bihar, every square inch of Bihar had been divided among dons who would collect tax from citizens. (Something very similar is happening in Bengal today under ….) I asked the driver, ‘Where have all the goons gone?’
‘Some have gone to Nepal, some to UP, and the rest are in jail.’
And please remember, this was only one aspect of good governance that Nitish Kumar offered Bihar, there has been spectacular all round development in Bihar in the last decade.
Therefore can we do anything but celebrate BJP’s defeat in Bihar? Another friend, Suresh Viswanathan has summed it up beautifully:
Suddenly everyone wakes up and is wishing that Lalu's association with Nitish will be his death knell. The people have given the verdict and from the verdict it is clearly visible that none of us had an inkling of the ground realities. Instead of wishing an elected Government well what is the point in wishing that they fall. Let us wait and see just like we are willing to give time to Modi why not to the Maha Gathbandhan. Bihar has chosen and they will live with that for the next five years as India will under the NDA!!!!!!

Bengaluru, 09 Nov 2015

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