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Lalu back to ‘IT-YT’ garb

- RJD leader says e-governance is adding to unemployment

Patna, Nov. 8: Lalu Prasad, the man who famous lectured students of IIM-Ahmedabad on how he turned around the railways, today virtually brought alive his early 1990s “IT-YT kya hota hai” persona by asserting that the Nitish Kumar government’s e-governance plan was adding to unemployment in the state.

“Nitish Kumar was unsympathetic to the youths by putting to use technology in administrative work with the aim to cut down on manpower,” PTI quoted the RJD chief as saying at his Parivartan Yatra meeting in Purnea.

Lalu, who has been touring the state calling for a change of guard, has been drawing large crowds in Katihar and other places of the Seemanchal region.

The Nitish government is trying to aggressively promote IT in Bihar, which is lagging behind other states in this crucial sector. Bihar’s IT prospects had taken a beating in the early 2000s when Lalu had famously run down the sector, saying “IT-YT kya hota hai?” IT firms looking at the east gave the state a miss and opted to set up shop in Bengal and Odisha instead.

The Nitish government is now trying to fast-track progress in the sector by encouraging setting up of IT parks to promote IT and IT enabled service (ITeS) companies.

As railway minister, Lalu had become the guru for IT-savvy management students impressed with his handling of the railways.

But Lalu’s remarks today drew sharp barbs from policy makers and experts who felt that the RJD boss was still unable to see how information technology had been creating separate political constituencies around the world.

“John F. Kennedy won the election in the US with TV beginning to dominate US drawing rooms in the 1960s. Now, the campaign through Twitter and Facebook has effectively enabled Barrack Obama to stage a comeback as US President,” said Shaibal Gupta, member-secretary, Asian Development Research Institute, and policy expert.

Gupta pointed out that Bihar in particular and India in general might not yet be driven by Twitter or Facebook on that scale. “But what is clearly visible is the fact that Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites — all driven by the IT revolution — have fast been creating their separate constituencies which are growing. A leader can ill-afford to speak against e-governance or IT in the emerging context,” he said.

A senior IAS official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said web tools were going to decide electoral trajectories in the future.

Senior JD(U) legislator Gajanand Shahi alias Munna Shahi put it more bluntly. “Lalu sudharne wale nahin hain (Lalu is incorrigible),” he said.

What, of late, might have been offering a “ray of hope” to the embattled Lalu Prasad locked in the dogged effort to drive the Nitish regime out is the surging crowds at his meetings.

“But if he fails to offer a vision promising a forward looking and viable alternative, he will find it hard to counter Nitish, who is too smart a leader to be defeated by old and outdated rhetoric,” said a former RJD minister, who has remained loyal to his boss because of the latter’s “large and clear heartedness”.

Nitish and his net-savvy deputy, Sushil Kumar Modi, have earned the state many awards and honours in the IT sector. Nitish seldom forgets to say how he had begun with the “Remington typewriter” era but is now striving to push the state on the fast track of e-governance.

In fact, Nitish deliberated at length to a Pakistani delegation which landed here a few months ago to invite him to their country on how he had used e-governance to execute his welfare and other development schemes ensuring fast growth and better law and order in the state.

While lambasting Nitish on e-governance, Lalu also promised that he would regularise the services of all the 2.5 lakh contract teachers, a pledge experts find utopian. “How can he regularise the service of contract teachers engaged in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan project,” said a senior official.