New hope for India’s badlands and a hurrah for Democracy

Bihar is a state in India with a population of 82 million. 57% of its people can read or write. Literacy drops to 33% if you only look at women. Bihar also has the lowest per capita annual income in the country, $298 compared to India’s average of $821 and vies for top spot in corruption.

For long these statistics have put Bihar at the top of the Bottom List as the most backward, lawless and corrupt state in India. And it is a state that has been riven for decades by the evils of a caste system and dirtier caste politics. First it was the privileged upper castes that ruled over the masses, then it was the “underdogs” of the caste system that seized power and took Bihar down a dark road of despair.

Bihar was not always this way. The Buddha attained his enlightenment here,  at Nalanda was the most sought-after university in ancient India, mighty empires ruled from its capital Pataliputra (now its state capital Patna) and Mahatma Gandhi started some of his early struggles against British colonial rule from Bihar. But that is history …

Five years ago, Bihar halted its continuous slide backwards and started growing. While it still remains a backward state, in a record of sorts, it has notched up double-digit growth rate every year. Roads have been built, property prices are on the rise,  and more girls are enrolled in schools across the state. The man responsible for this change is Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar.

Today Bihar is electing a new government and election results are pouring in. For the first time in living memory a political leader is on the way to a landslide victory in Bihar without riding on the wave of  his caste. Out of 98 seats declared, Nitish Kumar and his alliance of political parties have won 83 and he continues to lead in the trends coming from 119 races.

In his words, “The people were faced with a question – will they move forward or will Bihar will return to the darkness of earlier times? People chose to move forward and that is why it is their victory”.

This is a true hurrah for Democracy where the ill-educated, the poor and the exploited have voted for Development. It should be a model for others to follow around the world.

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