Amid the rabid caste-based politics which Bihar has witnessed since Independence, there is a fresh breeze of politics blowing across the state with a London-educated lass from Bihar challenging the traditional and veteran politicians in a nonconformist manner.
Pushpam Priya Choudhary, an alumna of London School of Economics and Political Science and Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, has floated a political party called ‘Plurals’ and declared herself as the future chief minister of Bihar after the assembly elections to be held in November 2020. In her early thirties, she talks in terms of development strategies and, for her, the challenge is change.
Pushpam has acquired highest expertise in academics and has world-wide exposure to policy-making. “She has studied and worked with some of the best minds of the world and politics, philosophy, economics, public policy, political communication, social policy and rural development are her forte,” claimed the first press release of the Plurals issued on March 9.
“She is a very capable woman who is trying to involve people in a very substantive discussion on lack of development in Bihar. Supported by people of similar mindset and ideology, she believes that it is high time that the discourse of real development, governance and well-being of people should take centre-stage than irrelevant and unproductive discussions — hence positive politics is what Plurals swears by,” said the release signed by Saraswati Padmanabhan, founder member and national spokesperson, and Akash Mehta, CEO and Global spokesperson, of the Plurals.
Pushpam frequently quotes Harold Dwight Lasswell, an American political scientist known for seminal studies of power relations. “Politics is who gets what, when and how. Following this, Bihar needs a blueprint and Plurals has a concrete roadmap for 2025 and 2030,” she said in her tweet quoting Lasswell.
On Twitter, she follows only Simon Hix, professor of European and Comparative Politics and Head of the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she has studied.
Simon Hix is co-founder and Chair of VoteWatch Europe and an expert on European Union politics, comparative democratic institutions, parliamentary voting behaviour, and parties and elections.
In a departure from the traditional politics, she does not use clichés like ‘social justice’, ‘social engineering’ and ‘inclusive development’ like her predecessors in Bihar politics has been vouching for since long.
Instead, she talks about Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-2030) and wants people especially the younger generation to control politics. Her development strategy, based on her studies at LSE and IDS and also her experiences in Bihar, is integrating multiple realities as there cannot be a single model of development as every individual has a unique reality.
“Bihar needs pace, Bihar needs wings, Bihar needs change. Because Bihar deserves better and better is possible. Reject bullshit politics, join Plurals to make Bihar run and fly in 2020. You focus on climbing the ladder and let us deal with the snakes,” she says in her front-page advertisements to mark launching of her political party.
She is unlike Prashant Kishor, who, with his high educational background, has emerged as the political strategist of leaders and political parties. Kishor has been non-committal to any political ideology so far and has been working for and wavering between extreme right ideologies to socialist strain of politics.
Instead, Pushpam has a team of dedicated people and the Plurals — a political party with an unconventional name — will unfold its ideology and agenda one by one in the upcoming days and months. Sources close to her family said they will have VoteWatch Bihar on the pattern of VoteWatch Europe headed by Simon Hix.
It is difficult to predict whether her novel and high-sounding ideas will have any impact on the caste-ridden politics in Bihar, but she has come as a challenge for the established politicians and political parties pursuing conventional mode of politics. Her audacious claims have made many young and old politicians tizzy as they have started digging out her sources of income and trying to know as to who actually are behind her.
She poses threat especially to the young brigade of Bihar politicians like RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan and CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who have so far been the victim of conformism. These young politicians may have the verve but they are definitely guided by the political philosophy and the politics which their fathers and respective parties have followed.
With her entry into the fray for the post of chief ministers, it would be interesting to watch the Bihar politics in months to come as there will now be five chief ministerial candidates contesting each other in the political arena of Bihar.
The incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar has been declared the NDA chief ministerial candidate while the RJD has declared Tejashwi Prasad Yadav as its chief ministerial candidate. The Grand Alliance is already divided over the candidature for the CM post as the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party leader Upendra Kushwaha and former Bihar chief minister and head of the Hindustani Awam Morcha leader Jitan Ram Manjhi, too, have projected them for the post.
Pushpam, lovingly called Ruhi by the family, is a Maithil Brahimin by caste and belongs to Basaha-Bishanpur village in Darbhanga district. Her village falls in the Hayaghtat assembly constituency, which was once the epicentre of Maoist violence.
Her grandfather Umakant Choudhary, who was a teacher of Hindi in the Millat College at Darbhanga, had unsuccessfully contested the state assembly polls twice in February and October 2005 from Hayaghat seat as Janata Dal (United) candidate. Her father Binod Kumar Choudhary, a teacher of Sociology in LN Mithila University, was Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) from the Darbhanga Graduate constituency. He is seeking re-lection this time but faces tough challenge from Dilip Choudhary, who has the blessings of CM Nitish Kumar.
It is learnt that her father is facing a challenge from his younger brother who has recently been made the JD(U) district president. Her mother Saroj Choudhary was NSUI leader during her student days in the late 1970s in LN Mithila University.
Whether the development-oriented politics pursued by people with modern outlook will replace the hackneyed caste-based politics in Bihar is a moot question now that the highly-educated youngsters like Pushpam are entering the political fray challenging the traditional way of politics.
Only time will tell whether she will make her mark or blow with the wind when the poll pitch reaches its crescendo.