What just happened in Bihar?

bihar polls

Bihar is the only state in India that is extremely unpredictable when it comes to politics. In the Most backward state of India, a Bihari must move out of Bihar to match up with the rest of India, to get out of destitution, or to make it big. Undoubtedly, Bihar has dragged India’s ranking on all Development Index for over 40 years (and counting).

Bihar is not a new settlement; people live here since the earliest days of civilization on earth and it is the birthplace of several influential people and religions. Empires from Ashokan, to Gupta Dynasty, to Pala Dynasty have ruled here. Even the much-coveted and celebrated Lord, Lord Ram ruled here. The Ram Rajya that once was enjoyed in Bihar, is certainly nowhere in sight anymore.

In Modern India, the state played an active role during the nationalist freedom movement, but the democracy and freedom that the country secured in 1947 for “We The People”, has failed drastically for the people of Bihar. According to Transparency International, In Bihar, 75 % of citizens admitted to paying bribe to get their work done. The judiciary and administration of Bihar are in vogue for its casteist and lackadaisical way of functioning. The home state of India’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Bihar has failed to live up to its past glory.

Bihar ranks the lowest on Human Development Index, with over 10% of government schools in the State having no separate toilet for girls. With a score of 0.576, Bihar is the worst performing state. All Health indicators, including Life Expectancy at birth, Availability of government doctors (per capita), Infant Mortality Rate, Maternal Mortality Rate, Bihar is either the worst performing or amongst the 5 worst performing states in the country. Bihar does not manufacture anything of consequence. Poverty continues to be high and unemployment remains much above the national average. 33.7% of people are below the Poverty line (highest in the country), Bihar’s per capita net state domestic product (NSDP) in 2019-20 was just Rs 46,664, against the national average of Rs 1,34,226. FDI in the state in 2019-20 was a mere 0.01% of the national average, and Bihar’s rank in Ease Of Doing Business was 26 in 2019. With negligible support for entrepreneurship in the state, entrepreneurs seems to be systematically discouraged in the state. Bihar is the only major state in the country from where not a single company was trading on either of the stock exchanges BSE/NSE in 2017. Private equity investments in the state are nearly nil. On the education front, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education is 13.6 (Amongst the worst 3 states in India). It is not shocking for me that Bihar “does not” measure most of the developmental indicators and it is virtually impossible to collect any kind of data from the state government.

For at least three decades, elections in Bihar have mostly been on Caste lines, and important local issues never have fetched sufficient votes. The OBCs and EBCs, along with a handsome percentage of Muslims (16.9%), helped either a Yaduvanshi Party RJD or the Caste (under the guise of development) Kurmi Party JD(U) to remain in power for the last 30 years. Congress is a small party in Bihar now, and so was BJP until the elections that concluded late at 2 AM (Considering the late counting).

Well, With the rallies of Tejaswi Yadav overcrowded, It did seem that the Biharis have finally chosen the election to be dominated by pressing Issues of common good, and the electoral atmosphere would be largely devoid of caste. With two major gainers, the BJP and the AIMIM in a see-saw kind of nail-biting counting, the myth that the election is being held on the issue of jobs, poverty, illness, and infrastructure is broken. NDA had a nail-biting finish, with 125 seats (just 3 more than the Majority mark of 122). However, the election results have several surprises for everybody and the electorate has given a big task for the electoral pundits, psephologists, and the parties to engage in a post-poll introspection (irrespective of the winning or the losing side).

There are 25 seats where the losing margin of Mahagathbandhan Candidates (INC+RJD+Left) is 4000 or less, and amongst these, there are 5 Seats where the margin is less than 600 votes. In Hilsa and Barbigha, the margin is only 12 votes and 113 votes.

In the NDA Camp, there are 22 seats where the alliance candidate lost by a margin of 4000 votes or less, and in Mathihani, Dehri and Ramgarh, the NDA Candidates lost by 333, 464, and 189 votes.

Also, a strange thing I observed that None of the Above Or NOTA scored 706,252 votes (1.68% votes). AIMIM secured 5 seats with just a 1.25% vote share. Surely, if there was no option for NOTA, the election could have turned the other way.

I hope the BJP dominated NDA in Bihar creates a new framework in Bihar and work on issues that matter and are of larger public good. Bihar needs to come out of 30 years of Industrial and Entrepreneurial lockdown. Bihar has a string demography, which has the potential to be converted into a Human Capital. Without the development of Bihar, a Secular growth of India is impossible. It is not just in the interest of Bihar and Biharis but in the larger interest of the entire country.

Shariq Us Sabah is an Economist and a Public Policy Executive. He received Research Assistance from his associate Shivika Sahgal. The writer can be contacted at [email protected]



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