IS ARVIND KEJRIWAL READING INTO THE MANDATE?

“He, the poor man, he was toiling in lanes, asking for forgiveness for his act of resigning in only 49 days while promising to work on corruption. Going by those 49 days we believe he will reduce electricity and water prices to make our lives easier. While he was struggling hard, making us feel he was one among us, she (Kiran Bedi) was travelling with caravan of vehicles, like a queen, seldom coming down to talk to the people.”

This observation by a female domestic help when Aam Aadmi Party’s numbers were shooting up on the day of counting on February 10 tells the triumph of the party as well as the challenges it faces ahead.

Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party have got another lease of life and another opportunity but they need to read the message write.

Before basking in its glory, they need to undo their doings, their mistakes so far, the mistakes that have been in the realm of ‘to be forgiven’.

In a miscalculated and unethical move, he suddenly dumped Delhi to explore the higher political ground in national politics. The ambitions, initially limited to contesting selected researched seats, went unbound and the party fought on 432 seats. There was no organization outside Delhi. Candidates had no resources to sustain. And there were no senior leaders available to campaign. Whatever little resource the party had, was mostly invested in Varanasi, where Arvind Kejriwal decided to pit himself against Narendra Modi, a certain defeat from the day one.

The result was earth-shattering for Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party. The party made an electoral record with most of its candidates losing their deposits.

Then, the man Arvind Kejriwal, had become bigger that his party and his ego had enveloped itself in a cult of his personality. Kejriwal traces his political origin to a hugely successful anti-corruption movement by the civil society, yet his political initiation looked undermining that when he started behaving like the seasoned politicians of the day whom he targeted and made core of his ‘politics of change’.

The mandate again, and a historic mandate, that is more of a BJP loss than a testimony of Kejriwal’s deliverability, is to make people believe that those were the initial bumps of the political initiation of a group of people with no political experience.

And for that, the Aam Aadmi Paty government in Delhi headed by Arvind Kejriwal must perform first, and to the scale that could reciprocate the sentiments of the people like the domestic help mentioned in the beginning lines of this write-up.

To achieve that, Kejriwal must kill every of chance of him becoming a cult in his party and for his supporters.

He must work with the spirit that politicians seldom show – as people’s servant as they have elected him to represent them and act on their concerns.

Yes, that is like asking too much, but then a young politician who traces his political roots in social activism and swears by the ‘Aam Aadmi’ (common man), has to understand the meaning of the mandate given to him.

It was a mandate of a demanding electorate that decided to punish the BJP for its non-performance during the nine months Delhi was under the Central rule under the NDA government since May 2014. The electorate was more miffed with the BJP’s non-performance than Kejriwal’s deserter act and when it came to elect its representatives again, it decided to go with the alternative that had shown traces of delivering.

With his ‘we did commit mistake’ apology while requesting people to judge him and his party by his work of 49 days and what he could do based on that if he was given the full five years delivered for him.

There were indeed millions, from the poor in the slums, from lower and middle income areas, street vendors, auto drivers, traders, who experienced extortion and corruption free days when police, MCD and routine office corruption (even in regional transport offices) were effectively kept in check. AAP’s water and power subsidies were implemented as promised.

For voters, oppressed under a system that makes corruption a part of life, these steps were big enough to ignore the wrongs of AAP then (and even now). And the thought of having such days for full five years proved to be a big motivator for Delhi voters.

But that doesn’t say the AAP was a perfect choice.

People chose him and his party because they looked promising on delivering if given a full term while the BJP failed to deliver even after a historic mandate in the general elections of 2014.

People voted for his party because he was able to position himself differently – as a commoner who know where the shoe pinches.

And there lies the danger for Kejriwal.

If he is not reading the fine print of the mandate given to him by Delhi’s voters, he is going to face the same predicament that the BJP is in – in Delhi.

People would not hesitate in rejecting a cultist, bigger than his party Arvind Kejriwal.

Kejriwal should try to do all to keep the day away when his supporters like this domestic help are forced by him to make observations like ‘we miscalculated him or we ill-judged him or he proved to be just yet another politician or we regret our decision to vote him in’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

PAKISTAN’S TALKS AND J&K GOVERNMENT AND BJP’S POLITICAL TRANSITION

Two developments that are intricately interwoven around Jammu & Kashmir, India-Pakistan bilateral ties, BJP’s politics and political identity and National Democratic Alliance government are taking some curvaceous churning these days.

The BJP and Narendra Modi have had a reflection of nationalist pro-Hindutva politics with a tough stance on dialogue with Pakistan.

But in the changed political scenario, with the responsibility of running the world’s largest democracy, any hard-line stance needs moderation. In fact, the stance needs some fundamental changes to redefine what constitutes nationalism. And it requires effectively nullifying the pro-Hindutva reflections here.

The BJP and Narendra Modi realize it. The party, along with its most popular and successful leader of the time, has to go through this transition, something on the lines of having a ‘nationalist, secular identity’ with a global vision of being a responsible world power. And whatever we think or have discourses on, the global community along with its world powers, still want India and Pakistan to talk, even if bilaterally, over J&K. Yes, it’s true that Pakistan has lost most of its currency on the issue, but it is still some years away that the world finally discards Pakistan’s hollow rhetoric on it.

So, there are different approaches to the two core problems that have shaped the BJP’s politics over the years – the party’s stand on Jammu & Kashmir and on dialogue with India Pakistan.

The ups and downs in talks with Pakistan are its truest reflections. First inviting Nawaz Sharif, even with other SAARC head of states, to his government’s inauguration, then suspending India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary level talks on Pakistan’s High Commissioner’s meet with J&K separatists, then again pushing for the talks with FS S. Jaishankar’s Pakistan visit beginning tomorrow, even if it is part of an extended trip, the ‘SAARC Yatra’.

And these reflections are further reflected in the prolonged discussions on government formation in J&K. The PDP and the BJP are two extremes in terms of ideologies and it took months of negotiations to arrive at some deal to form the coalition government in the state with BJP MLAs taking ministerial oath for the first time. Everything about this alliance has been uneasy so far, including its beginning with the chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed thanking Pakistan, separatists and militants for ‘allowing’ peaceful elections in the state.

But, these may be written off as the initial hiccups of some unusual, uneasy formations, that if the BJP pulls of effectively, will become milestones in redefining its political identity and thus its political space in the India’s socio-political future.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

A CITY CALLS

A city calls
As the Spring falls
It’s the rewind time
Of that singing line
On the wilder rhymes
To the random chimes
Holding the unsung ink
Twisting the chanted zing

A city calls
To its charming halls
For its winding alleys
On the toured dailies
Where colours seduce
As the days deduce
On my unsung songs
That a city longs..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

LIFE WAS STILL IN MAKING WHEN YOU WERE DYING

Life was still in making when you were dying

In the thriving and outgrown forest of thoughts

The rush of feelings was clear as well as confusing

Travelling inside with the silence you sought

To prepare for the journey upcoming

To the lands you didn’t know if at all existed

But with a silent commitment

To embrace what the future might have held

A life to the realms only heard and read so far

The thoughts were perplexed

Why to leave all that has been so known

Why to stay when a new path is opening up

With a relevance that had seemed illogical so far

Life was still reading its text

To see through beyond this life, to the ride ahead

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE UNION BUDGET TO HAVE IMPRINT OF MODI’S POOL OF EXPERTS

The Union Budget tomorrow is going to be the second Budget of the National Democratic Alliance government led by Narendra Modi in nine months.

The first one was presented in July 2014 by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley after the Modi government was inaugurated in May 2014. Then, the government was just one month into the office, nothing to look back to take steps forward.

Now, nine months into the office, there are developments in retrospect that are needed to be factored in while looking forward. And there will be an intensified level of scrutiny therefore.

In addition to the regular factors affecting the state of the Indian economy, another major element that is going to have its imprint on Budget, is the talent pool of the economists inducted by Narendra Modi in key policymaking functions of his government.

It was already visible in the Rail Budget that focused on consolidating on what is there than to engage in economically insane populism. Sources say the team of experts including the Ministry of Finance Advisor Arvind Subramanian, the NITI Aayog chief Arvind Panagariya and the NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy and the senior officials of the prime minister’s office played a major role in spreading out the policy concepts on the paper.

They are seen as free market experts believing in the primacy of the market to drive the growth and they are expected to follow the suit with the Union Budget.

We should be ready for a no non-sense Budget that would give enough of talking points, to the proponents, and to the opponents. If there has to be some space for populism, it is expected to be in context of the upcoming Bihar assembly polls later this year and the West Bengal polls in the first half of the next year.

But overall, it is expected to be a balanced Budget intending to kick-start the Modi’s vision of making India a manufacturing hub which can meet its requirements internally and at the same can acts as a hub of the export oriented global financial system.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE BUZZ WORDS BEFORE THE RAIL BUDGET PRESENTATION

Railway’s financial health: Indian Railways is in dire financial straits. It barely earns to sustain itself when it needs huge funds to modernize its ailing and ageing infrastructure. The high operational ratio, with expenditure being the 90% of the earning, will be discussed with deliberations on ‘how the new Rail Minister will approach the problem’?

Tariff hike: Fares would be hiked or not? Will the freight tariff come down? Will the passenger fare go up? Will the subsidized segments of train fares see rationalization?

Cleanliness: With ‘Clean India’ campaign being one of the cornerstones of Narendra Modi’s policymaking, the Rail Budget is expected to focus heavily on revamping the image of Indian Railways, a limping behemoth where even the A-class stations have questionable cleanliness record or where the catering of even the A-class trains like Rajdhani or Shatabdi cannot be relied on.

Clean energy/Alternative energy: Extending the cleanliness campaign, another big emphasis of the Modi government is to increase the share of clean/green energy in India’s overall energy consumption to the global norms. Indian Railways being a major energy consuming outfit, the Rail Budget is expected to lay down vision on the same.

Water conservation: Open taps or leaking pipelines are a common feature of all stations. Also, huge amount of water is used in cleaning trains and stations and much of it is wasted. But there are no specific guidelines water usage. Water recycling is still not practiced by most of its wings. The budget is expected to come with plans for the same.

High speed corridors: The Rail Budget is expected to and should focus on the high speed corridors, preferably on introducing semi high-speed trains and increasing speed of the existing ones. India doesn’t need a Bullet Train corridor now. Burdening its economy with huge-investment white elephants like Bullet Train projects, the one between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is expected to cost Rs. 60,000 crore, should be avoided. And we can expect this from the pragmatic professional in Suresh Prabhu, the Rail Minister.

Freight v passenger tariff trade off: What Indian Railways earns through freight is used to absorb the loss made by its passenger segment – the story of cross subsidy. It stands now at Rs. 24,000 crore. Indian freight tariff is among the highest in the world while its passenger tariff for suburban and sleeper is among the lowest. It is sort of a double whammy. The cross subsidy is eating into Indian Railway’s financial health and the high freight subsidy is making it lose market share to the road transport operators. Balancing these is a tough task, given the sensitivity of electoral compulsions. It would be interesting to see how Mr. Prabhu reflects on the same.

Customer satisfaction: It is always the buzz word, improving on services and introducing amenities. Cleanliness, better booking options, cooking hygiene, cuisine quality, better options on trains, efficient information broadcasts, wi-fi expansion and so on. The fare dynamics is an important part of it. If the fares are increased, it will be to arrange the funds for better amenities. It the fare are not reduced, it will again be to meet the fund requirement to provide a better customer experience. And if the fare are reduced, what else can be said, it is always the most satisfying aspect for most of the customers.

Collaborations: Need to infused fund in Indian Railways and as the government cannot meet the requirement on its own, there should be collaborations on the card – within India, from abroad. Privatization is certainly a sensitive issue but collaborations with external agencies on PPP model can be practiced. Also, the state governments can be made partners in projects falling in their region.

Make in India: Make In India is prime minister Narendra Modi’s flagship manufacturing initiative for India, intending to make India a production hub. But given the poor financial condition of Indian Railways, it should not be expected that the Rail Budget would come with new projects to produce its requirements in the country that it is currently importing.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TO HOLD ITS GROUND, NDA GOVT NEEDS THE LAND BILL ORDINANCE THROUGH

The hon. President has convened the Joint Sitting of both the Houses of Parliament under Article 108 of the Constitution in connection with discussing the configuration and implications of the Prevention of Terrorism Law and whether it should be passed or not? An anti-terrorism law already existed in America, yet they have brought a new law. The whole nation of United States was unanimous about it and when that law was brought before the Senate, only one vote was cast against it. After the attack on World Trade Centre which took a toll of about 3000 people, the President of America lost no time in declaring, `A war has been launched on the United States of America’. On the other hand, in our country this law was defeated in the Rajya Sabha and, paradoxically, the spokespersons of the parties went to extent of saying that they wanted to show to the world that this country was divided over this issue.

Arun Jaitley, the Minister of Law, Justice & Company Affairs, March 2002 (during a joint sitting of the Parliament to pass the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 – POTA – to replace the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance – POTO)

We need to get ready to listen to something like this when the National Democratic Alliance government led by Narendra Modi goes ahead with the Land Bill ordinance to get it passed in the joint sitting of the Parliament.

Narendra Modi has no other option.

He has promised the sky and he needs to deliver if he has to leave his legacy behind. And to leave a legacy worth talking about, he needs to come back in power in 2019.

He needs time.

One year is almost gone and the policy apparatus is still not in place, a must before Modi embarks on the journey to realize his dreams, to deliver on his promises.

And if a five year term, i.e., the single term, is going to be the window available, Modi has started running out of time.

He has promised jobs. He has promised increased income. He promised better amenities to live with. He has promised smarter living with smart cities. He has promised faster living with increased connectivity and reduced run time.

To say in one sentence – he has promised good times for a good life.

And the government cannot do so on its own. It needs collaborators, primarily from the industry, from within, and from abroad.

It needs capital and ways to invest that capital – in industries, in infrastructure – generating revenue, creating employment.

And land is an imperative in achieving this.

Delay in land acquisition has stalled projects worth over Rs. 3.5 Lakh Crore. There are reports that take this cost to Rs. 20 Lakh Crore. A CMIE report puts the worth of the stalled projects to some 14 Trillion US$. The industrial corridors of Delhi-Mumbai and Mumbai-Chennai and over 60 national highways are stalled due to delay in acquiring land.

Land is needed to create industrial corridors, new residential hubs and the associated infrastructure. Land is needed to connect India better to move faster.

Land is the key to unlock what Modi is aspiring for. And it is the key reason behind the Land Bill ordinance that diluted the provisions of the previous Bill passed by the Manmohan Singh led United Progressive Alliance government. Broadly, more categories have been exempted where owners’ consent is not necessary. Also, the provisions related to Social Impact Analysis have been diluted as well.

With mounting opposition and criticism, not just from the political opposition, but from his own allies, as well as civil society movements like the one launched by Anna Hazare, the ‘consensus’ that was always elusive, has gone beyond reach, with the present form of the Bill.

And to have his way ahead, Modi needs the Bill cleared in this form.

So, expect justifications, all of which are not invalid with some having mandatory relevance for spurring growth in India, during the joint session that is to be called to get the Land Bill ordinance cleared.

Would it be Arun Jaitley this time to initiate the debate of the joint sitting, the Minister of Finance and Information & Broadcasting now, one of the most eloquent NDA ministers? Last time, in 2002, it was the then Home Minister L K Advani.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE UNHINGED FRINGE ELEMENTS: THE PATH AHEAD LOOKS EVEN MORE ENTANGLED

Now, that is a problem, already accentuated.

And even after that, the elements are not ready to take stock of the situation.

Narendra Modi was eloquent with confidence when he had said back in May 2014 that he was there for two terms and the 2019 general elections were already won.

It followed the streak for some time, with Modi looking invincible electorally.

The letdown of the two major rounds of the bye-elections was mopped by BJP’s victory in three assembly polls with the added bonus of the party emerging as the second largest party in Jammu & Kashmir.

But, after almost nine months in the prime minister’s office, that eloquence is getting some shattering reality check.

And an ‘unbridled run’ of the fringe elements furthering the communal agenda is one of the reasons behind it.

The communal elements that have long been associated with the BJP’s politics started sounding victorious from the day one as if the victory of Narendra Modi and BJP had given them a safe haven.

Initially the BJP dismissed reactions on their acts.

The dismissive attitude was helped by victories in assembly polls. But in all those states, the BJP was the main opposition voice contesting the polls, against the anti-incumbency of the ruling governments.

But with no effective checks on these voices, they soon started going berserk, sounding and acting unhinged. Vitriolic statements were delivered and practiced. Religious conversions, saffronization of education and making India a Hindu nation started getting frequent visibility.

And this frequent visibility soon started getting traction.

It forced the BJP to come in a defensive mode, distancing itself from the voices, once the cracks started appearing, with the opposition attacking the government in the Parliament, with the people expressing their displeasure on social media and other platforms and with the media outfits debating and discussing the issue with rightly oriented critical coverage.

But the final bolt came with the humiliating loss in the Delhi polls, the first avenue where the BJP was seen ruling the National Capital Territory through the Central rule.

The many factors that contributed to the BJP’s drubbing in Delhi had in the ‘fringe communal elements running amok’ a principal collaborator.

The agenda of these fringe elements generally doesn’t go down well with the voters from the middle classes, the youth, the aspiring and job-seeking population segments and the education and peace-loving lot from every class of the society.

The BJP’s first test on this parameter was in Delhi and it failed here miserably.

Narendra Modi is well aware and he has tried to distance his government away from any radical or communal agenda. Though his silence has been questioned at times, he has come out and spoken clearly to strengthen the secular fabric of the country by voicing full support to the religious freedom, like he did during an church event in Delhi this month. He has been expressing his views in different ways and on different platforms.

But his efforts have failed so far.

And with the RSS, the BJP’s ideological mentor, getting more vocal about its ‘Hindu Nation’ theory and ‘religious conversion and re-conversion’ debate, with statements questioning even a Mother Teresa, alleging her to be involved in religious conversion in the garb of charity, the path ahead looks even more entangled.

To continue..

THE BRIEF FOR CONGRESS SPOKESPERSONS POST DELHI ROUT (AND POST RAHUL GANDHI’S SABBATICAL)

Expecting questions on the first family, the party’s top leadership, after the complete rout of the Congress party in the Delhi assembly polls, sources say the party came up with up with a new brief for its spokespersons.

Thanks to a recently shunned spokesperson, who helped with a copy of the brief, here is what it said:

On the Delhi debacle: Party is looking into it and will bounce back soon. There was no anger against the party. In fact, Congress is content that the communal BJP has been shown the door. The increasing fringe voices from the RSS and its affiliate organizations on making India a Hindu nation or the radical agenda like religion conversions have shown the real character of the BJP.

On the Gandhi family: The Congress spokespersons are to follow the same line on the first family of the party, the Gandhis (including Robert Vadra) the way it has been. Its sanctity is not to be touched. But, in the changed circumstances, it is expected from the spokespersons that they follow the line in a way that they must not sound doing so.

On increasing voices of dissent: Though the party follows internal democracy, the liberty to speak out has valid restrictions as propounded by our top leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. If anyone has any grievance, the person needs to approach the top leadership. Party discipline must be respected.

On future strategy: Organizational polls will be held for party positions as per the ‘democratic norms’ of the party’s constitution. It goes with the ‘fact’ that positions like vice-president do not come in the poll ambit. Also, Congress believes in developing consensus and the current president Sonia Gandhi is a world figure and one of the tallest mass leaders whose acceptability transcends party lines.

And with today’s controversy on Rahul Gandhi going on leave (or the sabbatical) during the Budget session of the Parliament, that acquired stormy propositions by the late evening with discussions themed on a possible ‘Sonia-Rahul discord’, the party had to add another one to the list, in a quickly called meeting of the party’s apex communication cell.

And thanks again to the same source, the shunned spokesperson, the addition to the brief was:

On Rahul Gandhi’s sabbatical during the Budget session of the Parliament: It has to be referred to as sabbatical only, nothing else. Party is gearing up to bounce back under the leadership of Sonia ji and Rahul ji. Rahul Gandhi is our leader and he has been practicing innovative politics ever since he got active in politics. He is a leader with out of the box thinking and has taken a well thought sabbatical to reflect on the developments so far to work on the further course of action. He will soon join us to launch a comprehensive protest against the anti-people policies of the Narendra Modi government.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NITISH KUMAR ‘MAKES’ A COMEBACK

The stage was set for the final showdown on February 20, but then one of the principal protagonists suddenly left the arena, giving walk over to his opponent.

And the opponent, the three-term chief minister of Bihar, was inaugurated for the fourth term today.

Nitish Kumar is the chief minister of Bihar again. And as he says – that his predecessor, Jitan Ram Manjhi, who was handpicked by him last May, had derailed the state from the path of progress – he has some eight months, as the current Bihar assembly is completing its term on November 29, 2015,
to bring the state back to the growth trajectory that he claims he had achieved for the state.

Nitish has been apologising for leaving the office of Bihar’s chief minister last year and letting Bihar on a negative growth spiral and his ‘Kejriwal act’ is being much talked about and discussed.

Probably, after seeing the brilliant success of Kejriwal’s apology act, Nitish thought he could do the same to deflect questions on his last year rhetoric that he would not come back to the office unless he gets a fresh mandate from Bihar’s voters.

Another pretext that he is speaking about is Manjhi’s misrule. Nitish says he was forced to come back as people were disappointed and angry with governance of the day in Bihar.

Now that he is back, he has to come out with 100% on his performance amid intense media and opposition scrutiny that would run along with a union government headed by his bitter political rival Narendra Modi.

While the good will go in mitigating the ‘bad’ of his ‘emotional decision’ last year, any bad will have amplified repercussions on his chances to score positively.

Can Nitish deliver when he has just eight months, given the fact that he was ‘forced’ to come back as Manjhi had brought bad days back?

The ‘bad days’ that he is also responsible for as bringing in Manjhi was his unilateral decision.

Now, the BJP may not ask this question to milk the better prospect of wooing the Mahadalit voters in the name of ‘Nitish insulting a Mahadalit leader and chief minister’, the young and educated voter would certainly think about it.

Also, the realpolitik of the day is different. The good governance days of Bihar under Nitish Kumar were from a coalition government with the BJP as an equal partner. It was in fact widely analysed that the BJP ministers were better performers.

Now Nitish is dependent on Lalu Yadav and his Rashtriya Janata Dal. Lalu is convicted in the fodder scam and is barred from contesting polls. The Bihar of his days, either under him or his wife’s rule, was seen as a failed state, a state where development politics had become a ‘forbidden political paradigm’.

Nitish changed that. He rode to the power promising development and delivered. But all this while, he was with the BJP.

Now as he is with Lalu Yadav and Bihar is heading for polls in few months, his political rivals will ask this question day and night. Now, only time will tell (and polls will tell) how effectively Nitish will be able to counter this question.

Nitish-Modi rivalry to surge: Though Narendra Modi tweeted to congratulate Nitish Kumar after his swearing-in ceremony and Nitish Kumar said the differences he had with Modi were ideological in nature and there was nothing personal, the history of Nitish-Modi rivalry says another episode is in making with the upcoming assembly polls in Bihar.

And we saw its first signs today when, after taking oath, Nitish told everyone that the mandate of 2010 was in his name only.

Now, Bihar is a make or break electoral proposition for both, the BJP and the JD(U).

After the humiliating loss in Delhi, the BJP must win Bihar to bounce back in the race of becoming a major political force and that cannot happen without having a winning or a major presence in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two state that count for 120 Lok Sabha seats and 37 Rajya Sabha members.

For Nitish, who had tied his political future with Modi’s political prospects, he is already on the back foot, retracting on his ‘quit rhetoric’ of last year.

With Modi having the advantage of the general elections win, a loss to Modi in Bihar polls would throw Nitish on the political periphery of Bihar and he would find in the similar situation Lalu Yadav is in.

Both, Modi and Nitish have their ‘make or break’ reasons to take on each other in the Bihar polls and each of them will try all to outdo the other.

And for Jitan Ram Manjhi, the chief minister till February 21, he was always a non-entity in Bihar’s politics before his sudden elevation. But his acts soon made it clear that Nitish had miscalculated in reading him. The ‘perceived yes man’ soon started spreading out, undoing moves by Nitish Kumar, transferring officials, installing his family members and making overtures to reach out to others including the BJP. It was soon going to be ‘enough is enough’ for Nitish Kumar to digest any further. His ‘yes man’ was working to dig his master’s grounds and the master was feeling increasingly unsettled. And it was just a matter of days.

Now, how much relevant Manjhi is going to remain will be gauged by the outcome of the polls only.

Though the BJP was seen in a tight spot on its decision to support Manjhi in the trust vote, that it could take only a day before, on February 19, after Manjhi’s equally sudden demotion on February 20, the day of the floor test when Manjhi resigned to flunk the test, the party breathed easy.

Supporting Manjhi had the inherent risk of alienating many caste blocks in the caste-ridden politics of Bihar. Also, going with someone like Manjhi, who is perceived as an inefficient leader with a trail of corruption and nepotism to talk about, could have alienated the young and the educated voters from the middle class.

Now, with the relief from Manjhi’s volte-face, the BJP, in fact, can expect to gain some good political mileage. With the Lok Janshakti Party and Ram Vilas Paswan, the BJP is already in comfortable position on Dalit votes with Paswans forming some 31% of Bihar’s Dalits.

Now, through Manjhi, the BJP would try to alienate another chunk of the Dalit voters away from Nitish Kumar. And Manjhi as a humiliated Dalit leader leading a front against Nitish Kumar would be a perfect beginning.

Bihar is heading for interesting, colourful political events in the run-up to the assembly polls.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/