Bihar: An unlikely trendsetter for governance | patna | Hindustan Times
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Bihar: An unlikely trendsetter for governance

patna Updated: May 18, 2009 00:10 IST
Ruchira Hoon

Roads. If it hadn’t been for the newly built metalled roads connecting the various towns and cities in Bihar, I would never have made it back to Delhi in time for my deadline.

For that, I am truly thankful to Nitish Kumar. As are, apparently, a majority of Bihar’s 8.29 crore people — something that was reflected in Saturday’s poll results.

From education to infrastructure to law and order, the change in the dynamics of Bihar governance has been substantial.

And it’s not just the people in the big cities of Patna and Ranchi that have benefited.

In the tiny villages connected by dusty roads, cellphones are ringing, the power situation has improved, and there is more water in the homes.

Village schools are seeing better attendance rates, not just from students but from teachers too, after a crackdown by the government.

There are more girls in the classrooms, a direct result of persistent campaigning by Nitish’s government.

Soon after he took over as CM, Nitish gave out compensation to the victims, mostly Muslims, of the Bhagalpur riots, something Lalu had forgotten about for 15 years, despite all the talk of the Muslim votebank.

Nitish then got women, Dalits and Muslims reservation in panchayats.

As the 58-year-old son of a freedom fighter delivered on his promises, the cleaving to caste and religion seemed to ease.

Everyone — from the Muslims to the Other Backward Caste Yadavs, so far firm Lalu loyalists, and even the upper caste Bhumihars — began talking about how things had improved in the three years since the engineer-turned-politician from the OBC Kurmi caste took over.

The contrast with Lalu’s 15-year caricature of governance in the state was tangible. Having spoken to a number of professors in Patna and Bodh Gaya, all of whom insist that the mindset of the people in Bihar was slowly changing, here’s what I think happened.

The people of Bihar were just tired — tired of lagging behind virtually every other state in the country in everything from literacy to infrastructure to employment.

Desperate to catch up, they placed their bets on the new agent of change. It was social reengineering that wasn’t engineered.