Reflections on Bihar poll results
By Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
Milli Gazette Online
The Bihar elections have proved that democracy is alive and well in India. The election results also show how important a constitutional body like the Election Commission is.
Though the immensely avoidable remarks of Election Commissioner’s adviser K J Rao caused unnecessary hurt to Muslims, the supremacy of the Constitution was made to prevail by the EC. That is no mean an achievement.
Before going further, we would like to put it on record that we stand by the people of Bihar, though we do not necessarily endorse everything that their electoral choice stands for.
We believe that Nitish Kumar is a right man in a wrong company, and the people (including Muslims) have voted for the man and his party, not for the company he keeps.
We approach this moment with both reassurance and trepidation: reassurance about the vitality of Indian democracy and trepidation at the enormous damage that the NDA can do to the country. Our fears are based on our experiences in other BJP-led states like Gujarat, M.P., Rajasthan and
In all the above states Muslims have been targeted for discrimination and humiliating attacks. Gujarat is not the sole example of denial of opportunity. We hope that Bihar would not be run the way other NDA states are, at least for the sake of political propriety and also for the sake of Muslims who have supported Nitish
It must be kept in mind here that it was not only a vote of support for Nitish Kumar, but also a vote against the disappointing performance of RJD. The previous government’s failures on the fronts of education, employment, industrial and infrastructural development proved its undoing.
Long stint in power had also desensitised the RJD to the aspirations of common people. That such a long stint in power had also produced an element of arrogance in the party’s top leadership is evident from the following account of a meeting on September 24, 2004.
Laloo Prasad Yadavji met a group of representatives from major Muslim organisations who presented a 15-point charter for consideration by the RJD government once it came to power. The points included such harmless issues as government recognition to minority-run institutions and payment of salary arrears to madrasah teachers long overdue. He shrugged off the charter arrogantly and disdainfully.
Although his abrupt behaviour sent bad vibes to the representatives of Muslim organisations, most of them decided to stay with the RJD-UPA alliance.
However, this time round a majority of voters, including Muslim voters, wanted a change, whatever the cost. Last year’s experience of deadlock because of UPA leadership’s lack of flexibility had also embittered the electorate.
As RJD and LJP were gridlocked in their own inflexible positions, the Congress Party was no more better off than the two. Stung and immobilised by a legacy of ineptitude left from Narshimha Rao’s time, this party too failed to rise to the occasion.
The terrible mishandling of the imbroglio by the governor compounded the UPA’s troubles. Ultimately it turned out to be less a vote of support for JDU than a vote of anger against governor’s misrule.
Meanwhile, the RSS was busy manipulating public consciousness in its characteristic way. The large gatherings at LJP’s rallies turned out to be heavily manned by RSS cadres and supporters, which was merely meant to send the message that RJD had lost public confidence. That goal achieved, they simply withdrew that mischievous “support”, leaving LJP to its own devices.
Finally, a few points for UPA leadership’s consideration. The RJD had definitely kept peace during its tenure, but communal harmony and peace became meaningless in the absence of electricity, education, economic growth, employment. No government can ignore these legitimate aspirations of the people.
Next year more states are going to poll. It is time for resolving the inner contradictions of the UPA constituents. This can be done, to begin with, by stopping to quarrel publicly over contentious issues. All this sends wrong signals to the people. An honest assessment of the fiasco and sincere efforts to overcome the weaknesses is called for. This has to be done at the
[The writer is General Secretary of All India Milli Council] 19-11-05 «