Intro: The Election Commission has fixed a deadline for the permanent residents of Bihar to enrol themselves in the voters list by June 13.
The election to the legislative assembly of the highly politically conscious state of Bihar is likely to be held in the months of September-October. Chief Election Commissioner Shri Nasim Zaidi has appropriately termed it as the ‘Mother of all elections’. Unfortunately, Bihar has traditionally been notorious for prevalence of electoral malpractices like booth capturing, voter allurement, indiscriminate use of money and muscle power and criminalisation of democratic process. But at the same time, we have to acknowledge the fact that the conditions have gradually advanced towards a better direction. The last decade witnessed a forward looking State Government under the NDA dispensation. The socio-economic indicators and overall fiscal health of the state had substantially improved from the gloomy days of Lalu regime. The NDA suffered a setback in the wake of political ambitions of Nitish Kumar who secretly nurtured a wish to lead the nation as its Prime Minister. His hypocrisy was further established by the way in which he treated the erstwhile Chief Minister of state Jitan Ram Manjhi. The mistreatment of Manjhi by Nitish Kumar reflects his parochial social mindset. It is an act of betrayal to the entire Dalit community of the state which is certainly going to have potentially disastrous consequences for Nitish Kumar.
The coming elections are going to be highly significant for the Bihar as it is going to determine the future of the substantial section of the population that primarily comprises of the youth. With a powerful Central Government in power working on the rejuvenated constitutional principles of cooperative federalism, a requirement of stronger provincial government is a prerequisite, where unison shall be observed in the functioning of the state. Bihar no longer can afford to remain an agriculture based economy exclusively. Industries, infrastructure, skill development and employment opportunities are some areas that unfortunately remain well beyond the imagination of the people. Large scale migration in search of better educational and employment opportunities has dampened the spirits of our people residing in the state. Bihar has a significant role to play in the national development with a large pool of demographic dividend. The state has traditionally been impervious to the developments in the larger macroeconomic framework. Sizeable segment of the population needs to be equipped with skill-sets suited for the growing market. The present Cental Government with substantial financial devolution has provided an excellent opportunity to states to compete and develop on the basis on local requirements. Natural disasters especially floods have earlier created havoc in the northern belt of the state; some of the areas here are in the state of perpetual vulnerability. Only a strong government provincially can engage with the central government and leverage its soft power in dealing with Nepal on this issue. Bihar has also received a good share of pie in the smart cities project as well as skill development centres. Bihar as a province is not in a position to waste this opportunity for creating a uniformity in the policy making sphere between the centre and the state.
Coming to the point, the Election Commission has fixed a deadline for the permanent residents of the State to enrol themselves in the voter’s list. In a parliamentary democracy, Citizen’s responsibility to vote should be a non-negotiable requirement. It’s high time that we start treating voting not as a burden but as a responsibility. Eligible persons in the state can submit their applications to Booth Level Officers (BLOs) between May 15 and June 13 or apply online (Emphasis: Online) on Election Commission (EC) of India or Bihar CEO website for inclusion of their names in the electoral roll. The registration is as easy as booking a show or ordering a book.
Let us treat this opportunity as a clarion call to Biharis to register/confirm themselves as a proud voter and participate in the election of a new government to prepare the state for next level progress and development. The relevance of call gains prominence for students and professionals operating from far beyond the geographical contours of Bihar to re-establish the enviable significance, the state once enjoyed in the history. Time is appropriate to reinvigorate the great spiritual and cultural heritage of Bihar and repivot the axis of development again from the holy land of Buddha.
Guru Prakash (The writer is pursuing PhD in Law on Article 370 of the Constitution of India)