The Telegraph
Tuesday , November 26 , 2013
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Power to drive Nitish governance

Patna, Nov. 25: Nitish Kumar today used the improving power situation in the state “woefully starved of electricity for decades” to counter the 91-MLA-strong BJP which has been sniggering that the chief minister had lost his grip, and power, on the state post the June split of the alliance.

“Bihar has consistently been getting the supply of 2,300MW of power since Chhath Puja (November 8) against 1,100 to 1,200MW in 2011-12 and 400 to 500MW when we assumed power in the state,” Nitish said at a function here to present the eighth report card of his government.

“We are set to increase the supply to 3,000MW and subsequently 4,000MW in the near future. We are relentlessly working on this front,” he contended.

The chief minister highlighted his government’s success in the development of infrastructure “which was virtually non-existent prior to 2005 when Nitish took charge” as his most satisfying achievement. Nitish had announced in his August 15, 2012, Independence Day address that he would not seek votes in 2015 if he failed to improve the power scenario.

Presenting the eighth report card of his government and the first after the break-up of the NDA, Nitish looked to stepping up of his campaign to strengthen his clout among the 16 per cent Muslims, who he expects to shift towards the JD(U) to neutralise the loss of the BJP.

“We have raised the pension for the dependents of the 1989 Bhagalpur riot victims from Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000 per month to enable them to cope with the growing price rise,” Nitish said.

In fact, the first decision that Nitish had taken soon after taking over the reins in 2005 was to identify the dependents of the Bhagalpur riot victims and announce a pension for them on the pattern of that given to the 1984 riot survivors in New Delhi. Apart from the pension that he doubled, Nitish also announced several other largesse for madarsas and other minority institutions.

The chief minister reeled off countless policies and schemes that he had taken up to drive his vision for “development with justice” in the state. But he subtly laced his report card speech with allusions to constantly target his estranged ally-turned-rival-in-chief BJP.

Hum kaam karte hain aur woh afwah ke parde mein ise dhakna chahte hain. Humein maloom hai ki sachchai ko samne aane se koi rok nahin sakta. Suraj ko dhundh mein bahut dinon tak nahin chhipaya ja sakta (I work. They [read BJP] want to cover our work under the mist of their rumour mill. I know that no one can stop the truth from coming out, the Sun can’t be covered in mist for long),” he said.

Getting back to the micro-level mechanism that his government had adopted to improve the power infrastructure in the state, Nitish said: “The state had only 48 functional power grids. Now it has 84 and work is underway to set up 29 more girds. The 31 revenue sub-divisions which were still devoid of grids would all have the same in near future.”

Throughout his hour-long report presentation speech, Nitish looked playing on his strength and keeping his government’s policies, schemes and announcements focused on the welfare of his core support base — women, weaker sections, Mahadalits and minorities. “Girls riding bicycles on way to their schools is the most satisfying sight for me, most pleasing to my eyes,” Nitish said, announcing: “Scholarship for all girls from classes I to X and its extension to all aided and non-aided and recognised madarsas, Sanskrit and general schools.”

All the blocks would have additional public health centres operating for 24 hours on all the days of the week to cater to the need of the poor patients, he said.

Going back to attacking his opponent (read BJP) for trying to “change the discourse”, Nitish said: “I do not want to get carried away by their (BJP’s) efforts to change the discourse. I am focused on confronting the challenges — natural or worldly. I am aware that our farmers have suffered heavily because of the Phailin and drought. The central team has assessed the damage. We expect the Centre to come out with adequate assistance.”

While lacing his speech with the subtle innuendos directed at the BJP for “derailing the cause of the state” to push external agenda (read promoting Narendra Modi as Prime Minister), he said: “I have no work other than working for the development of the state and welfare of its people. I neither get tired nor feel burdened in doing my job. Our work has raised aspirations of the people. I take it as a positive challenge and will keep working to meet the rising aspirations.”

Most of Nitish’s cabinet colleagues, including Narendra Singh, Renu Kumari, Vijay Kumar Choudhary, Ramai Ram, Vijendra Yadav, Shyam Rajak and Shahid Ali Khan, were in attendance. So were the heads of the key departments and the police brass.