The Muzaffarpur sex scandal cast a long shadow over Bihar in a year in which the state lived up to its reputation for political volatility as many smaller players made unexpected moves while the heavyweights strove for consolidation.
The Muzaffarpur sex scandal cast a long shadow over Bihar in a year in which the state lived up to its reputation for political volatility as many smaller players made unexpected moves while the heavyweights strove for consolidation. Not known for achievements in the field of sports, Bihar was nonetheless done proud by shooter Shreyasi Singh winning gold at the Commonwealth Games while cricket lovers felt gratified with the Bihar team playing Ranji Trophy after nearly two decades.
The NDA’s hopes of emerging stronger following the return of Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar last year took a beating as Hindustani Awam Morcha founder Jitan Ram Manjhi walked out and joined the opposition Grand Alliance which was followed, months later, by a similar but much more publicised and bitter exit of Rashtriya Lok Samata Party chief and former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha.
Although all RLSP members in the state’s bicameral legislature have revolted against Kushwaha’s decision and asserted that they would remain in the NDA, the BJP has nevertheless been jolted by his exit which came at a time when the party is smarting under the loss of power in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh besides relentless opposition attacks over the Rafale deal.
Ending suspense over seat-sharing, BJP president Amit Shah along with Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan appeared before media in New Delhi to make the world know on December 23 that while the first two will field candidates on 17 seats each in Bihar and Paswan’s party on the rest six. The Grand Alliance, which now has many regional players on board and is exploring an electoral understanding with the Left to augment its striking power, however has been beset with its own problems.
Its largest constituent, the RJD, remains crisis-ridden on account of imprisonment and illness of its chief Lalu Prasad, who is serving sentences in a number of fodder scam cases.
Prasad’s younger son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav led the party to some spectacular by-poll victories and showed the ability to marshal resources by staging an impressive demonstration at Jantar Mantar over the Muzaffarpur scandal wherein bigwigs like Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Sitaram Yechury took part burying their ideological differences.
The scion, whom LJP heir apparent Chirag Paswan recently called a “younger brother” – to the chagrin of alliance partners in the NDA, has his own share of woes which includes cases lodged by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate. His family, which controls the RJD, is also under strain as rumours of his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav and eldest sister Misa Bharti feeling uneasy under his leadership keep afloat.
Moreover, mercurial Tej Pratap Yadav’s decision to seek divorce from his wife of six months, his sudden and frequent sojourns in places of pilgrimage and a petulant refusal to visit the home of his mother Rabri Devi over her coming out in support of his spouse have only made matters worse for the family, triggering fears of turmoil within the party.
Conviction of two sitting MLAs – Ilyas Hussain in a corruption case and Raj Ballabh Yadav in a rape case – did not make matters better for a party that has often been accused of patronising people with criminal antecedents. The world woke up to a horror story in a state-run short stay home at Muzaffarpur where over 30 minor girls were subjected to untold sexual abuse in the hands of the owner of the NGO Brajesh Thakur.
Jolted by the Muzaffarpur home episode, the Bihar government took corrective measures like doing away with outsourcing of shelter homes’ upkeep to NGOs. Complaints of misuse of draconian provisions of the prohibition law were addressed to some extent through amendments in the same. Liquor ban law was brought in by Nitish Kumar government in 2015 and the year saw many arrests and seizure of huge quantity of illegal alcohol from outside.
The shelter home sex scandal also cost social welfare minister Manju Verma her chair and she landed in jail along with her husband Chandrashekhar Verma, both of whom have been booked under Arms Act as a CBI raid at their home led to recovery a huge cache of ammunition. There was also an impression of deterioration of law and order with incidents like recovery of bombs from a park in Bodh Gaya at a place where the Dalai Lama gave a discourse a little while ago, low-intensity communal clashes spread across several districts, sporadic instances of mob lynching and killings of several political activists – not necessarily because of political rivalry.
On the political front, Kumar proved wrong his detractors who had forecast his capitulation before the new and aggressive BJP led by Modi and his confidant Amit Shah. A prolonged war of words between leaders of the BJP and the JD(U) over who was the “big brother” in the NDA in Bihar was put paid to by an announcement by Shah, in presence of Kumar, that both parties would contest “an equal number of seats” in the Lok Sabha polls next year.
Three Congress MLCs, including its former state president Ashok Chaudhary, also crossed over to the JD(U),which stunned all political parties with the induction of former poll strategist Prashant Kishor and his elevation to the post of national vice-president within a month. However, the party fared miserably in all the by-polls it contested which has cast doubts over the hold it enjoys among the extremely backward classes, the worst off among Dalits and a section of the minorities.