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100 & counting, CM’s bumpy ride

Patna, Sept. 3: Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has been critical of the Narendra Modi government’s performance in its first 100 days in office. He was willing to give the Modi government, which completed 100 days in office today, no more than three out of 10, refusing to give it even pass marks.

But just how effective has Manjhi’s own administration been during the same period?

Manjhi himself completed 100 days in the saddle six days earlier (on August 28), having taken oath on May 20 this year.

Manjhi’s main rival though is not willing to be even that gracious. “The Bihar chief minister has at least given three out of 10 to the Narendra Modi government. His own government does not deserve even a zero. Not a single new scheme or project has been launched during the past 15 months,” said BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi.

JDU leaders themselves appear to be in a dilemma while assessing Manjhi’s tenure. Water resources minister Vijay Choudhary rattled off three achievements of the government.

“The Durgawati project will commence soon. The present government is following the programmes and policies of Nitish Kumar effectively. The achievements of the present government are reflected in the results of the recent Assembly bypolls,” Choudhary remarked while speaking to The Telegraph.

A senior JDU leader, who requested anonymity, was more candid. “The second achievement claimed by Choudhary is the crux of the problem,” the leader said. “Modi is in complete control of his ministers and officials. Manjhi, despite his efforts to flex his muscles independently, is considered a remote-controlled chief minister who is basically a stopgap arrangement till the next elections,” he said.

The challenges facing Manjhi, surviving under the shadow of Nitish, are immense. The Telegraph analyses just how the Manjhi government has fared on a few key fronts:

Law and order: The state appears to be slipping as the recent meeting chaired by the chief minister revealed a spurt in murders and kidnappings. A frustrated chief minister warned officials that he would remove them if the situation did not improve.

Attracting investments: There have been no fresh investment proposals worth mentioning during Manjhi’s tenure. Even the Hero cycle factory at Bihta was an old proposal. The chief minister has publicly proclaimed that the government is interested in small rather than big investments in Bihar. Investment has been linked with special status category for the state.

Tackling floods and relief to farmers: The chief minister was reluctant to declare districts drought-hit. Even after the August rains some districts are still rain-deficient. The diesel subsidy announced by the government is yet to reach the farmers. Even in the flood-hit regions, police have had to use force against people complaining that they had not been provided relief.

Roads: The condition of roads in Bihar is worsening with potholes plaguing most state and national highways. There are no fresh proposals for new roads and a few large construction companies have announced their withdrawal. The state government is busy passing the onus on to the Centre and the BJP is returning the charges.

New projects: There have been no new projects. The foundation stones being laid are for projects that were conceptualised during the NDA regime.

Inter-department coherence: There appears to be complete disarray in governance with ministers singing different tunes. Agriculture minister Narendra Singh took on the chief minister for his statement that officials had misled him on the drought situation. Recently, the chief minister himself alleged that the finance minister had asked him to remain within his limits. The problem primarily arises from the perception that Manjhi is a stopgap arrangement.

Tacking corruption: Corruption continues to be rampant. The chief minister has himself lamented about rampant corruption in the state and said that his son had to pay a bribe for correcting the power bill. Suspended JDU MLA Rajiv Ranjan alleged that the “business of transfer and postings under the current regime is to the tune of Rs 400 crore”.