Nobody’s Alliance to Save
Much is being written on Nitish Kumar’s ‘self-preservation’ and his having ‘turned turncoat’. It is being said that allies of all ideological persuasions love to ‘romance with him’, and eventually cry foul over his frequent flip-flops. A quick look back into Kumar’s political dealings suggests that more often than not, with each such flip-flop, the Bihar chief minister has grown stronger.
Early ground reports from Bihar would suggest that apart from Muslims and Yadavs, no other social group is really angry with Kumar wrecking the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance), but another ground reality has it that even the Yadavs are not feeling as devastated as one might want to believe.
Muslims have been offering more unflinching support to Lalu Prasad Yadav than the Yadavs. As Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) data show, electoral results have been most adverse for Lalu Yadav: 24-40% of Yadavs deserting the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), compared to less than 20% Muslims deserting the party in any given election.
No other social group in Bihar has ever reposed as much of trust in Lalu Yadav as the Muslims. So much so that when Nitish Kumar quit the NDA in June 2013, it was perceived as a move only to win Yadav’s Muslim supporters back to the Kumar fold. The unflinching support of Muslims to Yadav became obvious in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when the RJD leader’s vote share of 29% was almost the same as the demographic proportion of MuslimYadav (M-Y) voters. Every time Kumar went alone, his electoral performance has been miserable.
So what did Bihar’s Muslims and th- eir messiah Lalu Yadav do to prevent the wreckage of the mahagathbandhan, especially with the BJP in the ascendant in the state? Cracks in the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance became visible the day former parliamentarian from Siwan and criminal Mohammad Shahabuddin got bail.
While coming out of Bhagalpur Central Jail on September11, 2016, he stated his deep mistrust in the leadership of Nitish Kumar, adding that his leader was Lalu Yadav and that only certain situations had made the M-Y social base accept Kumar as the chief minister.
Shahabuddin’s statement — and subsequent ‘shobha yatra’ from Bhagalpur to Siwan — was ‘approved by silence’ by large segments of the Muslim leadership, intelligentsia and clergy. The role that show of support for a gangster played in making the mahagathbandhan untenable, and firming up the NDA’s position in Bihar, should not be underestimated.
In any case, observers of Bihar’s politics believed that Lalu Yadav was trying to marginalise Kumar and push his son Tejashwi all the while. But if Muslims felt so ‘scared’ of an impending BJP-included NDA rule in Bihar, what did they do all those months when the mahagathbandhan increasingly became unstable?
Abdul Bari Siddiqui, RJD’s seniormost leader, kept mum. Former RJD MP from Darbhanga, Mohammad Ali Ashraf Fatmi, bargained an assembly ticket for his son, Faraz Fatmi, and also kept quiet. So was the case with former Congress MP from Madhubani, Shakeel Ahmad.
The clergy, more prominently of the Imarat-e-Shariah, maintained its inexplicable silence. If the BJP’s rise in Bihar is seen as an existential threat to them, why did they not mount enough pressure on Lalu Yadav to do everything possible to keep the mahagathbandhan afloat? They did not dare ask the RJD leader to put secularism before dynasty.
But did Lalu Yadav really want to salvage the alliance? Or did he want to get rid of it, as with Kumar being there, Tejashwi was unable to dole out favours to the Yadavs, thereby losing his grip on the RJD’s core constituency? Sitting in opposition was a better way of retaining his grip on Yadavs, as favours wouldn’t be expected from Tejashwi out of power. JD(U) MLA from Sikta in West Champaran district, Firoz, a.k.a. Khurshid Ahmed, had chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ last week outside the Bihar assembly in Patna. Bihar’s Muslim clergy swiftly issued a fatwa against him. This selfdestructive politics of selective silence and fatwa is something Bihar’s Muslim leadership needs to examine.
Mere breast-beating and the self-perception as ‘victims’ will not take them far in any direction of empowerment. Nor does it augur well for the health of the national politics where terms of participation in the democracy are referred to in such cynical ways.
Agreeing to remain slavishly hostage to Lalu Yadav, a politician who has brought little progress and development to Bihar’s Muslim community after having ‘empowered’ them once decades ago, needs a relook. This aspect is as much desperately needed to retrieve the secular component of Indian democracy as keeping it safe from the ‘other kind of mob’. Global labour-productivity growth in construction has averaged only 1% a year over the last two decades, compared with growth of 2.8% for the total world economy and 3.6% in manufacturing.… Too often, regulatory complexities hinder productivity.
Indeed, non-technical risks, including political risks related to regulation and transparency, are often cited as proximate root causes behind poor outcomes, even more so than technical factors.… Governments can help reshape regulatory environments by streamlining permitting and approvals processes, reducing informality and corruption, and encouraging transparency on cost and performance. Many governments allocate grants for innovation and training.
There is a major opportunity to improve productivity by institutionalising value engineering into the design process and pushing for repeatable design elements. In asset classes such as deepwater oil and gas for which standardisation might not be the panacea, the opportunity for parameter specification rather than individual company specifications is significant.…
Construction lags other sectors in its use of digital tools and is slow to adopt new materials, methods and technology. Significant advances being deployed or prototyped today can transform the effectiveness and efficiency of construction in three areas: digital technologies, advanced materials and construction automation.
The writer is Professor, Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University From “Improving Construction Productivity”
The real gathbandhan