Prime Minister Narendra Modi's whirlwind rallies in Bihar are a testimony to the fact that not only is he the tallest Bharatiya Janata Party leader, but the most popular and powerful leader in post-Independence India.
Some of the narrative-changing addresses by Prime Minister Modi, underscoring the development initiatives of the BJP-JD(U) combine, will be the catalyst for a thumping NDA victory in the Bihar elections.
‘People in Bihar have decided that those who have a history of making Bihar 'bimaar' (ill) will not be allowed to return,’ said Modi referring to the inept Congress-led UPA regime, which ruled India from 2004-2014, resulting in India's lost decade.
Modi also slammed the Opposition for its demand to restore Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir and accused them of supporting those who conspire to weaken India. While Article 370 does not have any direct connect with the Bihar elections, the fact is that the Congress party has been demanding a restoration of status quo that existed in Jammu & Kashmir before August 5, 2019.
The Congress and the RJD are in a flaky alliance in the Bihar elections and PM Modi has exposed their hypocrisy on the issue. Why should the people of Bihar vote for an alliance that seeks to compromise India's territorial integrity?
The BJP, in its manifesto for the Bihar Assembly polls, has promised free distribution of COVID-19 vaccine, once the Indian Council of Medical Research approves it, to the entire state.
The announcement created a major storm and an intellectually and morally bankrupt opposition attacked the BJP for it. Like in the case of most immunisation programmes, the Centre will provide vaccines to all states at a nominal rate. It is then for the respective state governments to decide if they want to give it for free or otherwise.
Since ‘health’ is a state subject, the Bihar unit of BJP has decided to give it free. Interestingly, after opposing the BJP's move, the Congress itself announced free COVID vaccine in Puducherry, showcasing its duplicity.
The BJP also promised a bouquet of economic measures, such as creation of 19 lakh jobs, working towards turning Bihar into an IT hub, appointment of teachers and healthcare workers, construction of 30 lakh houses for the poor, and other help for farmers and students.
The BJP manifesto has the prime minister’s decisive stamp of inclusivity. But the Opposition continues to oppose these points.
The hard facts
Let’s take a look at some hard data: what stands out is that at over Rs 7 lakh crore, Bihar's Gross State Domestic Product has grown from just 3.19% fifteen years ago under Lalu Prasad to an impressive 11.3% today, under the BJP-JD(U) combine.
The per capita GSDP of Bihar is Rs 47,541 at current prices and Rs 33,629 at constant prices. The main growth drivers of the economy in Bihar are air transport (36%), other services (20%), trade and repair services (17. 6%), road transport (14. 0%) and financial services (13. 8%).
The fiscal deficit of Bihar was 2.68% of GSDP, revenue surplus 1.34% of GSDP and the outstanding public debt liability of the state government was 32.34% of GSDP during the year 2018-19.
What the fiscal numbers indicate is that the BJP-JD(U) combine has managed the state finances very efficiently without borrowing recklessly, which many Opposition-ruled states are guilty of.
Bihar’s revenue receipt increased by 12.2% whereas revenue expenditure increased by 21.7%, with revenue surplus being a healthy Rs 6,896 crore.
Agriculture and allied activities, which are the mainstay of Bihar's economy contributing 23% of the GSDP, have done exceedingly well in the last five years.
Annual growth rate of operational agro-based factories in Bihar was 16.4 % over the last 10 years, higher than the 2.5% agri-growth under an inept RJD, in the pre-2005 era.
The per capita consumption of electricity in Bihar has risen from 145 kwh in 2012-13 to 311 kwh in 2018-19, implying a growth of 114% in the last six years.
Under the ‘Jungle Raj’ of RJD's Lalu Prasad, prior to 2005, just 22% of Bihar had access to electricity: today that number is 100%.
Similarly, access to pucca roads has gone up from 34%, fifteen years back, to as high as 96%, today. This is the biggest vindication of how Prime Minister Modi's ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas Initiative has touched the life of every common Bihari, thereby redefining the concept of inclusivity.
The BJP-JD(U) alliance's flagship programme of ‘Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali’ to tackle issues related to climate change and environmental degradation, have worked wonderfully well.
In a big development in 2018-19, Bihar made it mandatory for all the departments to make all their purchases through the GeM Portal.
In 2018-19, the share of social services expenditure in total expenditure increased by a good 200 basis points. The BJP-JD(U) has been providing subsidies of 90% on drip irrigation and 75% on sprinkler irrigation, thereby making farming cost effective, lucrative and less dependent on monsoons.
Interestingly, 75% of the total migration took place due to marriage in the last few years, compared to 46% at the all-India level in 2011, under the UPA regime, when the migration happened due to lack of career-related matters.
Only 2.9% of the total migration from Bihar in the last six years, took place due to work/employment and business, which busts the fake agenda that people from Bihar under the BJP-JD(U) alliance, have been migrating due to lack of employment opportunities.
Bihar was the sixth highest state in terms of building additional road length (1,30,799 km), during 2008-2017. It was also at the third position among major states of India in 2017, in terms of rail route per thousand sq km of area
Currently, rural tele-density in Bihar is over 46 connections per 100 persons, but urban tele-density is over 149 connections per 100 persons.
With a share of 4.9% in 2019, Bihar is in the top 10 positions in terms of share of branches of commercial banks. There was an increase of 14.8 percent in the literacy rate of Bihar which has improved significantly from 47.0%, under RJD in 2001, to 61.8% in 2019.
Expenditure on education in the state increased at an annual rate of 13.8%, while that on health registered an annual growth rate of 20.8%.
In recent years, the ‘Jeevika’ scheme has been praised, nationally and on international forums, for its excellent achievements. The objective of this scheme is to provide sustainable income-generating assets to extremely poor households, including those who were traditionally involved in production and sale of country liquor or toddy, before the imposition of liquor prohibition in April 2016.
No discussion on Bihar is complete without elaborating on the ‘Jungle Raj' of the erstwhile RJD regime and its disgraced chief, Lalu Prasad, who was convicted and sent to prison, in the IRCTC scam.
The scam highlighted political greed, avarice and corruption at its worst. For this reason alone, it is unlikely that the politically conscious electorate of Bihar will ever vote back the RJD to power: how can a party deliver corruption-free governance when its patriarch is behind bars?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated two other major railway projects in Bihar in 2016, apart from the Munger rail project, at Patna and at Mokama over the River Ganga: the total cost of these 3 rail projects is over Rs 7,000 crore.
Those who falsely allege that the BJP has been talking about development in Bihar only in 2020 with an eye on the Bihar polls are completely blind to facts.
The truth is that good governance has been an ongoing mantra for the BJP-JD(U) combine. Last month, Modi dedicated the Kosi Rail Mega bridge to the nation and inaugurated projects such as a new railway bridge on the Kiul river, 2 new railway lines, 5 electrification projects, one electric locomotive shed at Barauni and others.
Almost 90% of Bihar’s rail network has been electrified over the last 6 years and more than 3,000 km of railways have been electrified.
Work on a dedicated freight corridor is going at a fast pace: about 250 km length of the corridor would fall in Bihar.
Of the 41 big river bridges in the state, 25 have been constructed during the NDA's 15-year rule, while 16 were built between 1947 and 2005. The NDA government will take up the construction of another 21 bridges.
Clearly, the NDA has worked at a feverish pitch for the welfare of Bihar, transforming it from a ‘BIMARU’ to a vibrant State.
Modinomics at play
More importantly, the growth of Bihar is in many ways a vindication of Modinomics, the prime minister's famed economic philosophy.
Drawing a comparison between the work done under NDA's 15-year rule (2005-2020) and the RJD, which was in power for 15 years till 2005, it is absolutely clear that RJD is no match for the NDA’s superior performance.
For instance, while the length of intermediate lanes in Bihar was 1,705 km till 2005, it has been increased to 5,654 km during NDA rule.
Similarly, 15 years ago, the length of 7-metre wide, double-lane state highway was 107 km, which has been increased to 4,429 km by the NDA government. Both the central and state governments have allotted Rs 2,672 crore in the past three years for constructing a road network of 1,636 km and 75 bridges in 5 extremist-hit districts of the state.
Contrast that with the RJD’s rule when Bihar was a den of Maoist-led Naxalism. The 15-year-long ‘Jungle Raj’ has now given way to a Bihar that is aspirational, hungry for growth and is self-reliant in many key areas, with the law and order machinery functioning seamlessly, thanks to disciplined leadership which has enmeshed growth with equity and social inclusivity.
“The NDA government has given priority to the poor in the time of coronavirus. At a place where the poor's ration was looted inside the shops, we are delivering ration to their homes. Where the money meant for the poor went into corruption, this government was able to organise free food for families in the middle of the pandemic,” the prime minister said last week at an election rally in Bihar, summing up the mood of the electorate.
Every life is precious and every life counts, and Bihar stands tall in terms of COVID-19 management. At slightly over 1,000 deaths in a population of about 10 crore (which is 0.001%), Bihar has managed to control the ill-effects of coronavirus effectively, keeping the fatality rate extremely low.
The promised free vaccine to Bihar, will further help the cause of ‘Jaan aur Jahaan’ and give wings to the state in its development outreach that has the Modinomics stamp written all over it.
Sanju Verma is an economist, the National spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party and bestselling author of ‘Truth & Dare -- The Modi Dynamic’.
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