Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Mission Bihar’:
Posers for the Congress ‘Crown Prince’

Dipankar Bhattacharya

On the eve of the announcement of the Assembly election schedule for Bihar, the Congress ‘crown prince’ Rahul Gandhi addressed a couple of heavily publicised meetings at Saharsa and Samastipur, the nerve-centres of the Kosi and Mithila regions of Bihar. The meetings were advertised as a major milestone in Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Mission Bihar’ campaign for a grand revival of India’s grand old party in India’s poorest state. The elections will tell us if and how far the Congress has managed to regain its long lost ground, but the meetings have already thrown up a whole series of uncomfortable questions for the youth icon of the grand old party.
Rahul Gandhi has been talking of infusing new blood in the Congress and recruiting fresh faces with clean images. Sharing stage with him in the Saharsa meeting were Ranjita Ranjan and Lovely Anand, two women leaders who represent the political legacies of Pappu Yadav and Anand Mohan, both currently serving life sentences as murder convicts (Pappu Yadav in the 1998 case of assassination of CPI(M) leader and Purnea MLA Ajit Sarkar and Anand Mohan in the 1993 case of murder of Gopalganj DM G Krishnaiyya) – certainly not among the cleanest and freshest of political faces in Bihar! And this is no aberration; rather this is central to the Congress gameplan of ‘reviving’ itself by recruiting turncoats and tainted elements from all sources.
Rahul did not forget to remind his audience that the funds he was despatching from Delhi were not being allowed to reach the deserving beneficiaries, and to ensure a free flow of funds to Bihar villages, the Congress would have to be brought back to power. This is a modified version of his father’s famous statement that of every rupee released from Delhi only fifteen paise reached the villages with middlemen appropriating the rest. Well, there are two gaping holes in this formulation. Firstly, the funds released by the Centre do not belong to the Congress party and secondly, the politician-middleman-bureaucrat nexus appropriating the lion’s share of these funds is as much characteristic of Congress-led governments as of any other government!
Indeed, as far as the people are concerned, it hardly matters whether the funds are allocated by the Centre or a state government. In both cases, the funds belong to the people and to the people alone. The coffers of the government are filled primarily by indirect and direct taxes paid by the people, more by the poor and middle-income sections than the rich. Of the 32.5 million tax-paying households in the country, 96% report an annual taxable income of less than Rs. 200,000 while only 2.2% (715,000) belong to the Rs. 800,000-plus bracket even as the National Council of Applied Economic Research tells us that at least 3.8 million households earn over Rs. 1 million a year! Clearly while the rich and the super-rich excel in tax evasion, it is the poor and the middle classes who bear the brunt of the tax burden, both indirect and direct.
Before bragging about central funds and pretending to be the soldier of the tribals and saviour of the poor, should not Rahul Gandhi tell his audience why the Congress government at the Centre is refusing to honour the Supreme Court directive to distribute foodgrains free of cost among the starving poor? Bihar, where more than 80% people live in poverty according to the latest UNDP report, which has been suffering continually from droughts and floods and where hunger has claimed some 150 lives in the last five years, surely has every right to know.
Before promising security and dignity for the migrant Bihari worker, should not Rahul Gandhi tell us why the Congress governments at the Centre and in Delhi are presiding over the more than Rs. 28,000 crore extravaganza in the name of the Commonwealth Games while Bihari workers engaged in CWG-related construction work are subjected to sub-human living and working conditions and abysmally low wages? Why in Congress-ruled Maharashtra, the MNS is allowed to humiliate, harass and attack Bihari workers and youth with impunity while the Congress strikes electoral deals with the same MNS?
Rahul Gandhi and his trumpet-blowers keep telling us that a resurgent Congress is the best bet for the deprived and insecure Muslim community in the country. Do not they first owe an answer as to why innocent Muslim students are killed in fake encounters in Congress-ruled Delhi and the champions of justice refuse even to order a judicial probe? Why the government that set up the Sachhar Committee and Ranganath Mishra Commission is shying away from implementing their recommendations?
And last but not the least, why the crown prince who swears by youth power has not a word for the Kashmiri students and youth who are being gunned down by the dozen for daring to come out on the streets in protest against repression?

The questions are getting louder, and Rahul Gandhi obviously has no convincing answers. No wonder, the NSUI was humbled in the recent student union elections in Delhi University, the home turf of our crown prince. Will Bihar be any different?