History of modern Bihar after independence

History of modern Bihar after independence

The first Bihar governments in 1946 were led by two eminent leaders Sri Babu (Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha) and Anugrah Babu (Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha) who were men of unimpeachable integrity and great public spirit.They ran an exemplary government in Bihar. After Independence of India, the power was shared by these two great Gandhian nationalists Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha who later became the first Chief Minister of Bihar and Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha who decidedly was next to him in the cabinet and served as the first Deputy Chief Minister cum Finance Minister of Bihar. Bihar was rated as the best administered among the states in the country at that time.In late 60’s death of central railway minister late Mr. Lalit Narayan Mishra (who was killed by a hand grenade attack for which central leadership is blamed most of the time) pronounced the end of indigenous work oriented mass leaders. For two decades congress ruled the state with the help of puppet chief ministries hand in glove with the central government (Mrs. Indira Gandhi) ignoring the welfare of the people of the state. It was the time when a prominent leader like Satyendra Narayan Singh took sides with the Janata Party and deserted congress from where his political roots originated, following the ideological differences with the congress.

After independence also, when India was falling into an autocratic rule during the regime of Indira Gandhi, the main thrust to the movement to hold elections came from Bihar under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan. In 1974, JP led the student’s movement in the state of Bihar which gradually developed into a popular people’s movement known as the Bihar Movement. It was during this movement that Narayan gave a call for peaceful Total Revolution together with V. M. Tarkunde, he founded the Citizens for Democracy in 1974 and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in 1976, both NGOs, to uphold and defend civil liberties.On 23 January 1977, Indira Gandhi called fresh elections for March and released all political prisoners. Emergency officially ended on 23 March 1977.The Congress Party, suffered a defeat at the hands of the Janata Party coalition of several small parties created in 1977 and the alliance came to power, headed by Morarji Desai, who became the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India. In Bihar, the Janata Party won all the fifty-four Lok Sabha seats in 1977 general elections under the mentorship of Narayan and rose to power in Bihar assembly also. Karpoori Thakur became Chief Minister after winning a contest from the then Janata Party President Satyendra Narayan Sinha.

Bihar movement’s campaign warned Indians that the elections might be their last chance to choose between “democracy and dictatorship.”  This resulted in two things:

  • The identity of Bihar (from the word Vihar meaning monasteries) representing a glorious past was lost. Its voice often used to get lost in the din of regional clamour of other states, specially the linguistic states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh etc.
  • Bihar gained an anti-establishment image. The establishment-oriented press often projected the state as indiscipline and anarchy.

Idealism did assert itself in the politics from time to time, viz, 1977 when a wave defeated the entrenched Congress Party and then again in 1989 when Janata Dal came to power on an anti corruption wave. In between, the socialist movement tried to break the stranglehold of the status quoits under the leadership of Mahamaya Prasad Sinha and Karpoori Thakur. This could not flourish, partly due to the impractical idealism of these leaders and partly due to the machinations of the central leaders of the Congress Party who felt threatened by a large politically aware state. Communist Party in Bihar was formed in 1939. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the Communist movement in Bihar was a formidable force and represented the most enlightened section in Bihar. The movement was led by veteran communist leaders like Jagannath Sarkar, Sunil Mukherjee, Rahul Sankrityayan, Pandit Karyanand Sharma, Indradeep Sinha, and Chandrashekhar Singh. It was under the leadership of Sarkar that the Communist party fought “total revolution” led by Jayprakash Narayan, as the movement in its core was anti-democratic and challenged the very fabric of Indian democracy. Since the regional identity was slowly getting sidelined, its place was taken up by caste-based politics, power initially being in the hands of the Brahmins, Bhumihars and Rajputs.

Janata Dal came to power in the state in 1990 on the back of its victory at the national stage in 1989. Lalu Prasad Yadav became Chief Minister after winning the race of legislative party leadership by a slender margin against Ram Sundar Das, a former chief minister from the Janata Party and close to eminent Janata Party leaders like Chandrashekhar and S N Sinha. Later, Lalu Prasad Yadav gained popularity with the masses through a series of popular and populist measures. The principled socialists, Nitish Kumar included, gradually left him and Lalu Prasad Yadav was the uncrowned king by 1995 as both Chief Minister as well as the President of his party, Rashtriya Janata Dal. He was a charismatic leader who had people’s support and Bihar had got such a person as the chief minister after a long time. But he couldn’t bring the derailed wagon of development of the state on to the track. When corruption charges got serious, he quit the post of CM but anointed his wife as the CM and ruled through proxy. In this period, the administration deteriorated fast.

By 2004, 14 years after Lalu’s victory, The Economist magazine said that “Bihar [had] become a byword for the worst of India, of widespread and inescapable poverty, of corrupt politicians indistinguishable from mafia-dons they patronise, caste-ridden social order that has retained the worst feudal cruelties”. In 2005, the World Bank believed that issues faced by the state was “enormous” because of “persistent poverty, complex social stratification, unsatisfactory infrastructure and weak governance”. In 2005, as disaffection reached a crescendo among the masses, middle classes included, the RJD was voted out of power and Lalu Prasad Yadav lost an election to a coalition headed by his previous ally and now rival Nitish Kumar. Nitish Kumar has regained Bihar’s true identity, which is the place from where people who changed the world come like Gautam Buddha or Asoka or Sher Shah Suri or the Sikh Gurus. Despite the separation of financially richer Jharkhand, Bihar has actually seen more positive growth in recent years.  Currently, there are three main political formations: Janata Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal led coalition which also has the Indian National Congress. There are myriad other political formations. Ram Vilas Paswan led Lok Janshakti Party is a constituent of the NDA at the centre, and does not see eye to eye with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD in Bihar. Bihar People’s Party is a small political formation in north Bihar. The Communist Party of India had a strong presence in Bihar at one time, but has got weakened now. CPM and Forward Bloc have minor presence. Ultra left parties like CPML, Party Unity etc. have presence in pockets and are at war with the state.

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