Aftermath of the shelter scandal
The outrage over the sexual exploitation of minor inmates at a government-funded shelter home in Bihar found an echo in the national capital on Saturday when several opposition parties came together to protest the incident. Led by Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the protest saw the participation of Congress, AAP, CPI and CPI-M. Former Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav demanded that the accused Brajesh Thakur be hanged. Congress President Rahul Gandhi said that he has come to the protest in solidarity with the women of the nation and if Bihar CM feels ashamed for what has happened in Bihar, he should take immediate action. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said that it is the same Jantar Mantar from where the protest in support of Nirbhaya rocked the foundation of the UPA government. The Bihar incident is worth 40 Nirbhyas and no one involved in the scandal should be spared. He demanded death sentence for the accused and the politicians who defended him so far.
The coming together of these leaders to protest the infamous Muzaffarpur shelter home mass rape incident indicates that the opposition RJD has been successful in highlighting the failures of the Nitish Kumar led JD(U)-BJP government in Bihar. RJD with 81 seats is the single largest party in the state Assembly while JD(U) and BJP with 70 and 53 seats rule the state through the coalition government. A day before the RJD's protest at Jantar Mantar, JD(U) had advised Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal to stay away from the RJD's protest, reminding them how RJD's rule in the state was synonymous with the Jungle Raj. But ignoring the appeal of JD(U), both the leaders participated in the RJD's protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. It is a common perception that the NDA is a declining force in Bihar's politics and RJD's stars are rising. At a time when the opposition parties are making moves to unite themselves in their bid to oust BJP from power at the Centre, it is natural for them to throw their weight behind RJD, when it is taking on the state government in which BJP is a coalition partner.
Nitish Kumar had come to power in the state on an anti-RJD wave. In the nearly twenty years of the RJD rule, the law and order were stated to have collapsed and the state moved backwards in all indices of development. There were multiple charges of corruption and financial scandals including the fodder scam in which the RJD supremo Lalu Prasad is currently serving a jail term. Nitish Kumar's JD(U) had promised to provide a corruption-free government besides improving the law and order situation. Over the years, JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar was seen more involved in remaining at the centrestage of Bihar politics by forging alliances with parties diametrically opposite in ideologies. From BJP to RJD, Kumar switched sides without any compunction. In his compulsion to remain in power and manage the day-to-day affairs of the coalition and his party, the promise of good governance and development lost the focus of the government. The higher education sector remained in a disarray for all these years with the result that an army of youth without adequate education and skill emerged on the scene. In absence of meaningful employment, they pervaded the entire range of informal sectors from NGOs to politics. A large section of youth is now ready to upset Kumar's political ambition in the state. The resurgence of RJD in the state politics is attributed to the support it receives from the youth. Though Kumar tried to respond to the changing scenario by some out-of-box initiatives like the introduction of prohibition in the state and mass recruitment of school teachers on a contract basis, these measures have failed to live up to the expectations of the youth. The crime rate is once again soaring and people are increasingly losing faith in the government. The situation is ripe for the emergence of an alternative political force in the state.
As caste considerations still play an important role in the state's politics, the rise of RJD to the centre-state is not surprising. Armed with the support of the youth, RJD's aim to trounce both BJP and JD(U) in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections looks more realistic. With incidents like the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape cases coming to light, Nitish Kumar is fast losing his credibility as a strict administrator. RJD' protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on Saturday and the participation of national leaders from the opposition camp in the event underscores the fact that the issue is going to remain alive for quite some time, most probably till the Lok Sabha elections next year. This incident will be cited as the biggest example of how Nitish Kumar failed in safety and security of minor children at the government-funded shelter homes for them.
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