THE UPCOMING ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS in Bihar are presenting an interesting conundrum to political analysts and psephologists—will the people of Bihar be swayed by the development story being aggressively pushed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United)? Or will they throw their support behind the casteist politics of Lalu Prasad Yadav, whose party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), had been in power for 15 years preceding Nitish Kumar.
In the months leading up to the elections, Nitish Kumar has been riding a high wave; the national media has even touted him as Bihar’s Vikas Purush. According to the 2009- 10 report by the state’s Directorate of Economics & Statistics, Bihar’s GDP grew by a remarkable 11.4 percent the previous year. It has also been widely reported that, over the past five years, the state has seen major improvements in law and order and the business environment.
Nitish Kumar’s claim of good governance is often compared with the all-too-evident chaos and corruption of the days of Lalu Prasad Yadav. Even the state electorate seems to be broadly consensual about the contrasting nature of the Nitish and Lalu governments. Although there have been some reports discrediting Nitish Kumar’s development claims, prima facie a tangible improvement in the law and order situation seems to have taken place. For the first time in decades, the state seems to be attracting the right kind of attention from investors.