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Vijaya Pushkarna
Vijaya Pushkarna


Friends with benefits

  • But Jaitley appears to have bared his mind on what the development model for Bihar should be.

The relationship between the JD(U) and the BJP turned bitter when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar dumped the saffron partner, to eventually cobble up an alliance with the BJP's bête noire, the Rashtriya Janata Dal led by Lalu Prasad Yadav, and the Congress. Things only worsened when senior BJP leaders stooped to a new low in the course of election campaign in the state.

Once Kumar's alliance won, notwithstanding Narendra Modi's grand campaign and the BJP lost Bihar, the vocal acrimony died down. But the anger and bitterness remain. Just like Modi avoids eye contact with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, he would not see Kumar eye-to-eye, if he can help it. The same goes for the BJP president and Modi's right-hand man, Amit Shah.

But Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is different. While this is not to say in a blanket way that he forgets and holds no grudges, Jaitley has met Kumar after the election results quite a few times. Recently, he spoke of them having been on friendly terms for eight-ten years, and the two having had lunch together early February.

What they discussed, is a mystery. But Jaitley appears to have bared his mind on what the development model for Bihar should be. It is not enough to build schools and roads in villages. They need large universities that include engineering, technology, medicine and a whole gamut of other professions. Apart from converting a huge youth population into human resource for the state and the country, it would, in a way, address the “palayan” (migration) issue that is affecting the Bihar society, he told the chief minister. Apparently, while Kumar's intentions are great in terms of development, Bihar's actual performance is inferior to many other states where leaders are less passionate about it, or are doing less to address it. Jaitley's suggestions may well result in a change in Kumar's idea of development of a state tagged "Bimaru"—meaning sick.

Bihar is full of young graduates and postgraduates. Most of them proudly say so. Ask them in what subject, their pride rises a few more notches, and they say, “ancient Indian history”. Could be the Nalanda effect, or the effect of countless other ancient ruins that dot the state where Buddha sat under a tree and got enlightened.

The modern day Nalanda University, of which Amartya Sen was the chancellor, is a matter of pride not only for the Ministry of External Affairs, which played a crucial role in its formation, but also for Bihar. But the reality is it has only 34 students, and probably more people as faculty!

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Topics : #opinion

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