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2007: The year when politics in Bihar fizzled out
December 21, 2007 13:37 IST
Weathering all the storms and setting aside the efforts of his bete noires, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar successfully went through the comparatively hassle-free 2007.
Unlike previous years, 2007 could be termed as a politically dull year in Bihar, which in the past had always been the centrestage of politics.
Being the breeding ground of several political parties, including the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal-United and Lok Janshakti Party, which were playing pivotal role in the corridors of power, the state it remained unusually calm throughout the year.
The rival parties, desperately searching an opportunity to make political attacks on the Nitish government, finally grabbed the Reshma-Kajal murder case and subsequent assault of some prominent scribes and lensmen by Anant Singh, the VIP legislator of the ruling JD-U and close confidant of Nitish in November.
They tried to encash political mileage out of it. However, they could not succeed in their mission. The political atmosphere got surcharged in Patna following the 'Bihar Bandh,' the call given by the entire Opposition on November 1 on the issue, but diffused like water bubbles and the government celebrated its second anniversary with much pomp and gaiety.
Despite several attempts by the Opposition to politicise the issues of common concern like flood, Below Poverty Line list, irregularities in ration-coupon, no major political event went in the credit of the state.
RJD supremo and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi, who had a sigh of relief following their acquittal by the special CBI court last year in the disproportionate assets case, an offshoot of the multi crore rupee fodder scam, again had to face the legal battle in the particular matter following a challenge petition filed by the state government in Patna High Court on February 18, 2007.
A Special Leave Petition questioning the jurisdiction of the Bihar government's challenge petition, filed by the CBI in the Supreme Court, gave a bit of respite to the VIP couple. However, the apex court observed that the challenge petition of the state government will be heard by Patna High court.
Being Railway Minister, Lalu gave a bonanza to the people of his state in form of various railway projects. However, he indulged in blame game for the failure and delay in bringing the projects to the ground.
He accused the Bihar government for non-cooperation and alleged that the state government was deliberately delaying the land acquisition for the projects.
On the other hand the first woman chief minister of Bihar and Lalu's wife, Rabri Devi, who was playing the role of Leader of the Opposition, too could not succeed in the mission to destabilise the Nitish Kumar government and except raising her voice over the issues like power crisis, floods, waterloggings, her performance in the political field remained devoid of any major achievement throughout the year.
Rallies of RJD and LJP held in October and November though kept both party members on their toes were considered as a moderate show of their political strength. The Chetavni rally organised by the RJD in Patna on October 28 had no impact on the stability of the state government.
The November 28 Sankalp rally of LJP, which concluded with a pledge to dislodge the Nitish Kumar government, too met similar fate as all pomp and show of LJP chief and Steel, Fertiliser and Chemicals Minister Ramvilas Paswan fizzled out.
The year witnessed a significant and remarkable political move when almost all political parties, which were dead against reservation for the forwards, ironically advocated for the same for the poor section of the class. Toeing separate lines the parties while advocating for reservation to the poor section of the upper class found it as most suitable political tool to make a dent in the forward vote bank.
The RJD, however, took a lead in the matter as the party leaders during their workers' meet in Rajgir promised from the open platform for amending Constitution for facilitating reservation to the poor section of the forwards.
Similar announcements were made by Paswan during his 'Sankalp rally.' The ruling JD-U, which had already penetrated deep into the extremely backward castes and women vote banks by enforcing reservation in the Panchayat elections, too joined the similar band and vociferously came forward in favour of the reservation to the poor class of the upper section.
Present national general secretary and national spokesperson of ruling JD-U Shivanand Tiwari popular as 'Baba' joined JD-U abandoning the RJD. Tiwari who was supposed to be the sankatmochak (the rescuer from crisis) for RJD chief Lalu Prasad left the Railway minister and shook hands with his old friend and socialist leader Nitish Kumar.
His joining the JD-U brought turmoil in the Dal as internal bickerings precipitated and came to the fore as some of the prominent leaders including former leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Upendra Kushwaha camp were disappointed.
Frustrated with Nitish's gesture for according much importance to a fence sitter and leader like Tiwari, who on majority of occasions shuttled in between the ruling parties, Kushwaha who reportedly had command on a particular section of Kushwaha vote bank finally got solace in the Nationalist Congress Party and joined the party along with his supporters.
One of the prominent Dalit leaders and former Union minister in tal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet Sanjay Paswan too joined the NCP.
The most vexed issue of Cabinet expansion, which had resulted in much hue and cry in the ruling NDA coalition of JD-U) and BJP, remained on the backburner of the Nitish Kumar government in 2007. Legislators from both parties adopted pressure tactics on Nitish for expansion of the Cabinet. However, in absence of expansion, the aim to get a berth in the ministry remained a distant dream for the group eyeing the corridor of power.
The ruling coalition and the Opposition were again facing each other in the electoral battle ground as the Bikramganj Lok Sabha bypoll was slated for December 29 following the sudden demise of JD-U parliamentarian Ajit Singh in a road accident in Bihar.
The campaign for the bye-election was in full swing and RJD chief and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad was conducting hectic campaign for the victory of his party candidate Ashok Kumar Kushwaha from UPA fold.
Nitish, known as 'Vikas Purush' (development man) who came to the power with a promise for development of Bihar, launched several developmental schemes all over the state. However, basic infrastructure like power, road, industry and other such sectors were yet to taste the flavour of development as the condition of roads and power was still in a shambles and not even a single industry had kicked off since Nitish came to power.
The law and order situation and Maoists activities posed as big challenge for Nitish as crime like kidnappings for ransom, murder and Naxal attacks rocked the state throughout the year.
Nitish was still striving to improve the law and order of the entire state.
The anomalies in the BPL list trigerred a lot of controversy and even after passage of the entire year the anomalies were yet to be rectified. The ration coupon scheme launched for the poor on the occasion of Independence day celebrations too could not bring desired results as the people were still not getting the ration and other facilities on the coupons given to them.
Nitish journey to Mauritius in July was strongly criticised by the Opposition as the state experienced devastating floods which caused huge damage to the life and property in north Bihar. Soon after his arrival from Mauritius, the chief minister launched rescue and relief operations on war footing.
However, the Opposition as usual tried to encash political advantages from the situation. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil accompanied by RJD chief Lalu Prasad made aerial survey of the flood-ravaged areas and after extensive assessment of the damage, the state finally got Central assistance for the floods.