It is good Nitish Kumar and Laloo Prasad Yadav have discovered their voice. Despondency resulting from a loss of faith in the people can cause problems both for the political actors and the polity. Therefore, to the extent the grand alliance of almost all anti-BJP forces in Bihar has yielded six out of ten seats for it in Monday’s Assembly bye-elections, it is good for everyone. It is good for the former JD(U) chief minister to try and rebuild his party anew in time for the next year’s Assembly election. It is good for Yadav, who was feeling forlorn after the huge drubbing in the recent Lok Sabha poll and the earlier loss of power in the previous two assembly polls. As for the third element in the `mahagathbandhan’, well, the Congress tail can also acquire some hope of wagging a little more forcefully, now that it too has got a lone seat in the bye-elections in Bihar.
As for the BJP, which ended up ceding two to win four of the ten bye-election seats, the jolt from the voters should end its Modi euphoria and complacency. Having ridden to power in New Delhi on the Modi wave, the party cannot hope to win power in the states only in his name. It will have to project credible chief ministerial candidates, make its own state-level alliances, and generally offer itself as a better alternative to the rival formations. Yes, within weeks of a resounding parliamentary victory, the BJP had lost all the three sssembly bye-elections in Uttarakhand. Remarkably, the BJP had won all the five parliamentary seats in the state with handsome margins.
Clearly, the voters make a distinction between central and state polls. Clearly, there is always a rebound from a massive win for a party, with the voters impulsively compensating the losing party in the following bye-elections. It is axiomatic that in bypolls, the dominant party invariably ends up losing a majority of the seats, be it for the assemblies or the Lok Sabha. The BJP also paid a price for the general feeling that in the three months the Modi Government had been in the saddle, it had not delivered something spectacular. (Recall the bypolls held soon after Indira Gandhi’s massive victory in the 1971 Lok Sabha election.) That expectation might be unreal, but you cannot deny that it is there. Having aroused huge hopes, a little cooling off was only natural. How the outcome of the bye-elections would impact the coming Assembly polls in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand is not known, but it would certainly pep up the outgoing ruling parties to meet
the challenge of a resurgent BJP a little more forthrightly than before.
The bypoll results give the non-BJP parties a talking point, something to cheer its cadres, which were feeling downcast after the resounding defeat in the May Lok Sabha election. But the record of the incumbent governments in the states going to the polls would be crucial in the polls, and there the Congress-NCP in Maharashtra, Congress in Haryana and Congress-JMM in Jharkhand are clearly on the backfoot. Therefore, much should not be read in the outcome of the bypolls by those who have otherwise failed to meet the people’s aspirations for five long years in power in these crucial states.
Get on with coal production
The Ram Katha of the huge bungling in the coal block allocations need not be reiterated here. Suffice it to say that the apex court judgment on Monday has only confirmed what was known all along, that is, there had been a huge scam in these allocations. That despite the arbitrary allocations, the country had had to import a huge quantity of coal to fuel its power plants tells another scandalous part of the coal scam. In 2013-14, the foreign exchange outgo on coal imports alone was over Rs. 93,000 crore. This is a far bigger cost to the nation than even the arbitrary licensing of natural resources by the UPA Government for extraneous reasons.
Constraints of space prevent us to dilate any further on the guilty men and women of the UPA who perpetrated such a huge scam. Of course, a lot of people stand vindicated, among them being the former CAG Vinod Rai and the former Coal Secretary P C Parakh, the latter having had to face the abuse of CBI as well. But all that pales into insignificance when one considers the actual fall-out of the apex court judgment. Hopefully, the ongoing efforts to activate coal mines, even those licensed on discretionary grounds, would not be abruptly halted. The overriding need of the national economy for indigenous coal should, in no circumstances be superseded by other concerns. Wherever possible, the top priority ought to be to permit coal production even by `tainted’ allottees. They can otherwise be penalised, but the urgent task of coal production should not be de-prioritised.