Politician-turned-bureaucrat NK Singh who left the JD(U) and joined the BJP recently, maintains that post the split with BJP in June last, JD(U) government's focus has shifted from development to survival. In an interview with dna's Ashutosh Kumar, Singh claims anti-incumbency and unmet expectations will work against Nitish in Bihar in the upcoming polls. As JD(U) MP, Singh, who spearheaded alliance talks with top Congress leaders, now says Kumar was never interested in the alliance.
How is BJP positioned in Bihar in context of chief minister Nitish Kumar's claims of a good governance in Bihar?
Bihar is complex in multiple ways. Whether it has made a transition from identity-centric politics to development-centric politics is debatable. One of the reasons I left JD(U) was because I found that after the split with the BJP, the focus of governance changed substantially to survival. After the split the government of Nitish Kumar is technically in a minority. It has outside support from Congress and a few independents. Lot of focus and energy is on who is joining and who is leaving.
Will a nine-month old change in the discourse weigh more than the eight-year period of development and competitive politics of JD (U)?
Anti-incumbency and unmet expectations are some of the very important factors working against the ruling JD (U) government in Bihar.
So what are the expectations that Nitish Kumar did not fulfill?
During 2010 assembly elections, Bihar was on a huge development path. The fact remains that lot of growth momentum in Bihar has been supported by enhanced public outlay. Private investment has not yet benefitted Bihar. People were expecting a lot more private investments, and a lot more job creating private investments. I have maintained that Bihar has seen spectacular growth under the chief ministership of Nitish Kumar, but under the NDA government. It was not a JD(U) government. The leadership till June last year had been a collective political leadership. Therefore I took the decision as I feel India needs the country needs a strong and stable government to get out of the present economic malaise. And I felt BJP is a party, which is best in position to provide it.
You were a part of alliance talks with Congress when in JD(U). Why didn't the alliance between the JD(U) and Congress work out?
Frankly speaking, I think it is wrong to say that JD(U) was serious about an alliance with Congress as it was confident that it is strong enough on its own. What it was seeking was a special category status. If special category status was given by the Congress, there may have been some political room for JD(U) leaders to explore an alliance. Congress, meanwhile, believed that they will get a bigger political mileage in an alliance with the RJD. And if that was so, giving special category status to Nitish Kumar did not make political sense to them.
Both Congress and BJP are champions of neo-liberal economic policies. If BJP comes to power, how do you see BJP doing something different from what Congress has already been doing on the economic front?
Congress is not a champion of the neo-liberal economic policies. As a fact, the critique of the last ten years of the Congress rule is that it has hardly pursued any economic reforms. It has allowed a hangover of a somewhat populist socialist agenda to dominate the policy making matrix of the Congress party. Congress embarked on a series of policies beginning 1991, which is regarded as a watershed year as far as policy paradigms are concerned. Congress in UPA I and UPA II has steered clear of any neoliberal market policies.
Against this backdrop, what should be the first three economic priorities?
One of the priorities would be to restore confidence, trust and credibility. Second is to restore the macroeconomic credibility. One cannot overnight withdraw all the subsidies. One has to balance out rationalising the structure. Also, we have to get the different institutions of the government working in a credible way. Parliament is largely stalled. Instilling confidence in the executive that decisions will be protected. Look at the executive, people avoid taking decisions because they do not know whether even bonafide decisions would have the protection. Therefore avoiding a decision has become preferable than taking a decision.