New Delhi: The media has begun writing Nitish Kumar’s political obituary barely has he settled to the chief ministry of Bihar. How should the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party respond to the problems of governance that Nitish Kumar inevitably will face with his alliance with Laloo Prasad Yadav, a convicted no-good politician? Should it exult at the coming storm? No. Keeping the interests of Bihar foremost, it must cooperate with Nitish to the extent its position allows, and see to the state’s economic growth and development. On the issue of growth and development, there must be absolute bipartisanship. The BJP should inaugurate this era in Bihar.

Bihar is among the most backward states of India. With Jharkhand separated, it does not even have rich resources of minerals to depend, although such wealth usually becomes a curse in the long term. Why Bihar became backward from a state of reasonable standing in the early years after independence is an old story, partly explained by the decline of the east as a whole when Calcutta lost its pre-eminence, and to which may be joined successive bad leadership and the stranglehold of caste politics. Mandal politics led Bihar to further darkness, and Laloo’s “jungle raj” marked the epitome of descent, from which Nitish and the BJP rescued the state and restored to it a modicum of civility. Now Nitish is, as it seems, alone in government to spearhead this legacy, and the BJP should not be found wanting.

Bihar is bigger than political differences. As India rapidly urbanizes, Bihar is being left behind. More of its people live in villages in appalling conditions than conceivably the national average. Round-the-clock electricity is unknown in Bihar save pockets of Patna, and even its major towns compare miserably with the rest of the country. Roads are nonexistent for the most part. Information reach and media penetration are negligible. And whereas the people of Bihar are highly political despite these handicaps, and rooted for Nitish Kumar for the right reasons, the Chief Minister needs all the assistance he can. The Opposition BJP should put the bitter election campaign behind and contribute to Bihar’s good.

Should it, by that token, drop its watchfulness against corruption, the single biggest dread with Laloo’s ascent in Bihar? It cannot. The BJP should play the role of an alert and constructive opposition. It should be clear in its stand that it will support the transparent growth and development process of Bihar. What about the anxiety of Nitish cornering the acclaim? Turn to A. B. Vajpayee’s example. As Prime Minister, he never stinted in supporting states as his resources allowed, and never looked back at applauses following his decisions. History will judge him as a wise and magnanimous Prime Minister. People are not to be fooled. They can see good work when it is done. If the BJP works for the welfare of Bihar regardless of who steers the state, it will set a precedent. Good work always pays.

There is a second piece of unsolicited advice. The BJP must respect the election verdict and not seek to exploit the fault-lines of the JD-U/ RJD arrangement. Destabilizing governments has become integral to the country’s competitive politics and the BJP must buck the trend. It must return to self-referencing itself as the party with a difference. The party has explosively grown gaining its first Lok Sabha majority and considerably diluted its brand value in consequence. That is another matter altogether but the Bihar BJP must live up to the high reputation for the party established by Vajpayee. Perhaps from that beginning, the national party structure can return decency and mature politics to the forefront of its thoughts and actions.

When the BJP set itself up as a party with a difference, it won the appreciation of people. Now as the principal opposition party of Bihar, the BJP must return to those roots. It cannot fail Bihar or, for that matter, the country.