India Insight

Lalu Prasad’s roller: courting the Muslim vote in Bihar

Muslims are seen as a crucial vote bank in several possible swing states in India’s general election and many politicians are making the right noises to court the community.

In the state of Bihar, which I recently visited, its chief minister Nitish Kumar told me his campaign focused on caste-blind development but also communal harmony:

“Now everybody is happy. There is complete communal harmony,” he said as we sat at night on the veranda at his residence.

If what he says is true, then communal harmony could be a vote winner for Kumar, whose party still has far fewer seats in the national parliament than that of his main rival in the state, the federal Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Prasad was chief minister for years, backed mainly by the Yadav caste and the Muslim vote. Could that Muslim vote now be slipping away from him?

Bihar: after the “Jungle Raj”

“The state government is trying to establish the rule of law…however so mighty someone may be, without any discrimination, whatever their clout is, they will still be put on trial.” 

This is what Neelmani, a senior police officer in Bihar, told me in a recent interview.

He said the “Jungle Raj”, which gave the state a reputation for corruption, kidnappings and crime, is coming to an end.