A Bihar bureaucrat, currently on leave in the UK for scholarly pursuits, has researched into the State’s failures during the period and concluded that an incapacitated government was all part of RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s grand design of governance.
The study has been done jointly by A Santosh Mathew, a 1985-batch IAS official, and Mick Moore, a political economist and professorial fellow at Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Sussex where Mathew is doing PhD. Titled ‘State Incapacity by Design: Understanding the Bihar Story’, their 32-page paper says that Lalu kept public sector jobs vacant instead of filling them with qualified people as they were mainly from the upper castes.
“How can we account for the 1990-2005 deterioration? The answer lies in the interaction of three factors. The first was the type of leadership exercised by Lalu who was chief minister throughout most of this period — even when his wife formally occupied the post,” reads the paper released in May this year.
The second, according to Mathew and Moore, was the need of the electoral politics to maintain the enthusiasm and morale of an electoral coalition of the poor and oppressed, on which Lalu thrived. “Such was the scale of poverty among this core electoral coalition that Lalu had limited prospects of maintaining its cohesion and allegiance to him through the normal processes of promising ‘development’ and using political patronage to distribute material resources to them,” the paper further reads.
More importantly, any development strategy would have involved a high level of dependence on the government apparatus that was dominated by people belonging to upper castes. “That is our third factor,” the scholars argue and add that Lalu tried to “micromanage the state apparatus from the CM’s office … (and) denuded the public service of staff”.
The two researchers have pointed out that the state government with Lalu at the helm surrendered the Union government’s funds designed for anti-poverty programmes because it was unable to complete the relevant bureaucratic procedures. “Lalu knowingly undermined the capacity of the state apparatus,” they write.
“After Lalu lost the 2005 state elections to an opposite coalition led by Nitish Kumar, Bihar became almost the poster child for governance reforms. The new government began to do a large number of sensible things and political and economic confidence increased. The state economy began to perform well and people began to talk of the ‘Bihar miracle’,” the paper says.