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Performing in Patna

The task of excluding non-performers could have turned out to be difficult for Mr Kumar given that he is heading a JD(U)-BJP coalition government.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2008 21:46 IST

Governance seems to be a catchword in politics these days. Dropping ministers for non-performance was not something we heard of too much in Indian politics earlier. But today, people are not willing to accept that their elected representatives can take high office and get away without delivering the goods. It is here that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has surprised us by doing almost the unthinkable: he has dropped ten ministers from his cabinet. Though the occasion was ostensibly to announce a cabinet reshuffle, the decision to drop ministers, including those in charge of health and sports and culture, comes not a day too late in the ‘new’ Bihar.

The task of excluding non-performers could have turned out to be difficult for Mr Kumar given that he is heading a JD(U)-BJP coalition government. This does make it tough to take hard decisions which the CM has done. Bihar Health Minister Chandra Mohan Rai and Sports and Culture Minister Janardan Singh Sigriwal were both BJP heavyweights. But the fact that Mr Kumar has successfully convinced the BJP to sacrifice its prominent leaders not only shows that he is in full control but it also augurs well for the state. The message is loud and clear: perform or leave.

Bihar, over the last decade or so, had become synonymous with dysfunction. A state rich in human resources and manpower never quite got its due. But since Mr Kumar took over as Chief Minister a little more than two-and-half-years ago with a clear mandate from the people wanting change, things seem to be looking up. It is still too early to break out the bubbly on Mr Kumar’s performance. But any incremental development that augurs well for the state’s image is good news. Mr Kumar’s self-effacing style of governance has already attracted attention that might soon convert into investment; something the state desperately needs.

Ironically, Mr Kumar’s decision is not very much in variance with the moves made by the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre. A performance-driven shake-up sends out the right signals. That is what Mr Kumar has done. Bihar is a state where governance has been on short order for a long time. If the recent moves are anything to go by, this may well become a thing of the past.