The recently held election to 118 local bodies that ranged from municipal corporations to nagar panchayats, and involved a total of 2,864 posts in Bihar have been remarkable in many ways:
The election was held on a non-party basis. Can one imagine of this in Bihar?
Candidates backed by political stalwarts and dreaded dons such as Mohammed Shahabuddin, Surajbhan Singh, Saryu Paswan, and Sunil Pandey got rejected.Was it an uprising against those who have built up their fiefdom in various regions, hijacked development funds and took everything for granted?
The government reserved 50 per cent posts in all categories for women, 20 per cent for OBCs and extremely backwards, 15 per cent for SCs and one per cent for STs in all panchayats and urban bodies.
Women mostly under 30 captured 70 per cent of the posts, and more than half of the remaining posts went to the youth.
“Neither caste nor religion worked this time.”
State Election Commission could manage the entire exercise with just unarmed state home guards backed by the local police, without summoning battalions of central paramilitary forces for poll duty.
Could one even dream of such a change in Bihar with long history of booth capturing, bogus voting, mayhem and even murder?
The dream of cleansing the system of crooks and political mercenaries may become a reality soon.
Women contested not just the posts reserved for them but also staked on unreserved posts. And won. For the first time, even the candidates from the lower class contested and won.
Voters braved the heat wave sweeping the state. Over 55 per cent voted, which was higher than the 2002 polls and Assembly polls in 2005.
It started with the last year’s panchayat elections. Bihar was the first state to reserve half of all seats and posts for women. It seems, now onwards women alone would control grassroots politics and conduct developmental works in Bihar. From zila parishad president to pramukh, mukhiya, panchayat samiti, sirpanch and panch, there are 2.62 lakh elected representatives and out of these 1.31 lakh are women.
Beena Devi, 31, a poor woman, had fought criminals and landlords in Nawadah to become mukhiya of Loharpur, would soon be joining a delegation of 50 women to Lahore. Nitish Kumar hopes to replicate this model to change politics based on caste, creed, gender and religion.
And what all it means? The Comptroller and Auditor General has agreed for auditing of the funds being channeled to panchayats. This again would be first in the country. Unscrupulous local legislators will soon lose control of the funds for panchayats and local bodies.
Will it not have far-reaching impact on politics of the state?
Let other states emulate the last ranking Bihar.
I wish, the government with help of some reputed agencies organized an orientation camp for the elected members to acquaint them about their potential contribution to the devlopment of the state. The government must ensure to educate those who are not through various means. One way out may be through group visits to developed states such as Kerala and Punjab.