No surprise that Nitish is back in flourishing Bihar (Letter from Patna)

By Arpana, IANS
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NEW DELHI/PATNA - Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s win is no surprise for the people of Bihar. They had set their heart on bringing him back after witnessing a virtual metamorphosis of the state since 2005.

There was a time when people used to lock themselves up in their homes after sunset. But now there is a buzz on the streets: people throng restaurants and markets with families beyond dusk. The unbelievable has happened in Nitish’s Bihar.

His biggest challenge when he came to power was to bring normalcy to a state where everything seemed abnormal. He succeeded remarkably, winning the trust of people cutting across regional, religious and caste divide.

Unlike his precedessors, he gave people hope, communicating his vision of a new Bihar.

“The people wanted growth and they saw that happening under Nitish’s government. That is why they have voted for him. People are sure he will take the state forward,” said Sunil Kumar, a lawyer in Patna, echoing a widespread sentiment.

Kiran Sharma, a housewife from Aunta in Patna district, said she was not so happy with Anant Singh, the candidate of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JD-U). “But I voted for him because I wanted Nitish to come back.”

That was the mood in Bihar. And why not?

After living in fear for more than 15 years under Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi and seeing the state slip into a downward spiral, people heaved a sigh of relief when Nitish Kumar was sworn in as chief minister. His focus was on re-establishing law and order and infrastructure in the state.

As the tide turned, eating joints mushroomed in Patna — brands like Yo China, Domino’s, Dosa Plaza, Kapil’s Eleven, Bollywood Treats. Families now queue up till late night.

The Bihar capital also boasts of a Pind Balluchi, a revolving restaurant in Biscomaun Bhawan at Gandhi Maidan and a floating eating joint on the Ganga river. And all this spells jobs — and hope.

Parks in the city, earlier used as garbage dumps and cow sheds, have got a makeover. Seven were inaugurated this year.

Patna Museum, a 93-year-old structure, was renovated and now is the pride of the city.

Maurya Lok, a shopping centre in the heart of Patna, used to be deserted. Now it’s full of life. From gupchup - the Bihari name for golgappas - to litti to Chinese food, its numerous stalls do roaring business.

Maharaja Kameshwar Complex, a new shopping hub, boasts of brands like Lee, Levis, Mufti and Woodland. Even popular readymade clothing brand Fabindia has opened an outlet in the city.

Patna’s young now eagerly await filmmaker Prakash Jha’s mall in Patliputra colony.

“Nitish Kumar is working with a vision and he is not focusing on Patna alone. I travel a lot within Bihar. Whether it’s Begusarai, Muzaffarpur or my home town Barauni, the most noticeable change is the roads, which are in proper shape everywhere,” said Priya, a graduate student in Patna Women’s college.

“I moved to Patna in 1998. That time nobody used to go out in the evening. Now you can see the whole city abuzz with activity. You can think of going for long drives or late night ice creams just the way Delhiites do,” said the young woman who voted for the first time — and for JD-U.

Women in a cities outside of Patna too have begun to enjoy a lifestyle usually seen in the metros — they do multi-tasking, work late nights and have fun. Swanky cars ply on the roads, an impossible sight five years ago.

Patna also boasts of the Chanakya National Law University that became operational in 2006 and an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), which started in 2008.

Work on a leading healthcare centre is going on at war speed. And Nitish Kumar has promised that today’s power starved Bihar will be power surplus in three-four years.

With new flyovers in Patna, property rates have appreciated.

Little wonder that Nitish Kumar’s JD-U in combination with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the polls Wednesday. The chief minister, people say, has brought normalcy to a state that had become notorious for caste politics, crime and more — for decades.

(Arpana can be contacted at

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