Nitish Kumar’s Ninth Avatar: Can the New NDA Government Rewrite Bihar’s Story?

The political seismograph of Bihar registered a 7.2 on January 28, 2024, with the unexpected formation of a new National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. This dramatic pivot marked a seismic shift from the “Mahagathbandhan” alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) – a partnership that governed Bihar for eight years. It’s a move that has left political pundits scratching their heads and the residents of Bihar wondering what this new chapter holds.

Nitish Kumar, now serving his ninth term as Chief Minister, is synonymous with Bihar politics. His “Sushasan Babu” (good governance man) image, built on infrastructure development and improved law and order, remains strong. However, his recent decision to ditch the RJD and rejoin the BJP after 18 months – a political rollercoaster ride familiar to Biharis – has raised eyebrows and questions.

Some see this move as a strategic masterstroke, ensuring political stability and leveraging BJP’s resources for Bihar’s development through increased central funding. Others view it as a shift in Nitish Kumar’s core ideology, pointing to his softening stance on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – issues that previously caused friction with the BJP.

Bihar, however, has more than just political drama on its plate. It grapples with the harsh realities of being one of India’s poorest states. The new NDA government inherits a basket of challenges, including:

  • Economic Revival: Bihar’s GDP per capita stands at a mere $1,621 (2022), compared to the national average of $2,825. Boosting agricultural productivity, attracting investments, and creating jobs will be critical to lift millions out of poverty.
  • Education and Healthcare: Only 64% of Bihar’s children aged 6-14 attend school, and healthcare indicators like infant mortality remain alarmingly high. Improving access to quality education and healthcare infrastructure will be paramount.
  • Law and Order: Bihar’s crime rates, particularly against women and marginalized communities, remain a concern. Strengthening the police force and ensuring impartial justice will be crucial for creating a sense of security.
  • Social Development: Empowering women, minorities, and other vulnerable groups through targeted policies and schemes will be essential for inclusive growth.

While the NDA may benefit from BJP’s national clout and access to resources, it faces the uphill task of delivering on promises and managing public expectations. Nitish Kumar’s legacy hinges on the government’s ability to translate good intentions into tangible results.

On the flip side, the NDA has the potential to push through long-stalled reforms and attract investments with its combined political muscle. Nitish Kumar’s reputation for good governance and BJP’s organizational machinery could be a formidable force for development.

The formation of the new NDA government in Bihar opens a fascinating new chapter in the state’s political saga. While the road ahead is fraught with challenges, the government boasts the potential to drive Bihar towards a brighter future. Whether it can leverage its strengths, navigate internal contradictions, and deliver on its promises will determine its fate and the future of millions of Biharis.