Bihar is an eastern state that borders Nepal, and is surrounded by Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Historically, Bihar was a center of learning and is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, Nalanda, destroyed in 1193 and revived in 2014. In 2000, the southern part of Bihar was ceded and became the new state of Jharkhand under the States Reorganisation Act (1956).
Bihar is India’s third most populous state, with a population of 100 million. According to the 2011 Census, the state’s sex ratio is 0.91, with a 53.3% prevalence of literacy among women. This eastern state is predominantly rural, with 88.71% falling in this category. Hindus constitute nearly 83% of Bihar’s population, followed by Muslims (16%), Christians (0.12%), Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains (0.01% to 0.02% each)
Languages spoken in Bihar include Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magahi and many other dialects of Hindi.
According to the 2015-16 Economic Survey tabled in the Bihar State Assembly, the fastest growing sector in the state is the service sector, with banking, tourism and communication all registering growth rates of more than 15%. Agriculture, the sector that employs nearly 90% of the state’s population, only grew at 6.09%.
By per capita income, Bihar is at the bottom rung, and the per capita power consumption in Bihar is 144 kilo watt hour (kwh), 85% lower than the national average of 927 kwh. Only 26% of rural households are electrified. A proposed nuclear project will triple Bihar’s nuclear power generation capacity to 13,480 Mw by 2026.
Janata Dal (United) or JDU has dominated the state since its inception in 1999. JDU grew out of a split in the Janata Party, which led India’s first non-Congress government in 1977, and was founded by Sharad Yadav. Its current leader, Nitish Kumar, recently won his fifth term as Chief Minister.
Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has been the JDU’s main opposition party. Founded in 1997, the JDU has secured four terms under Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi. Its support base comes from the minorities of Bihar, including its sizeable Muslim population.
The Congress has a presence in Bihar as well, but has not won an election since 1990. In the 1970s, when Indira Gandhi was in power, the Congress faced opposition during the Bihar Movement under Jayaprakash Narayan. JP, as he was known, led the student protest against corruption and misrule by the Bihar government. This was also a period of massive youth unemployment and food shortages,
Bihar has been under President’s Rule eight times since Independence, often due to the ruling party losing its majority through defections.
Mohammad Sajjad, Muslim Politics in Bihar: Changing Contours, (Routledge 2014)
Ghosh, Prabhat P.. (2010). “Economic growth and human development in Bihar”. Ray, Shovan, ed. Backwaters of development: six deprived states of India (Oxford University Press, 2010)