They ask for more, from a Sitamarhi mall to Chhapra school

Sitamarhi MallSitamarhi got its first mall recently.

Five days after Narendra Modi's Hunkar Rally in Patna's Gandhi Maidan, the small town of Sitamarhi, where posters announcing the BJP show still fluttered jauntily, got its first mall.

Outside the three-storey 'Bazaar Kolkata', raising his voice above the music and the din, Mohd Intizar, a 27-year-old tailor from the nearby village of Dervas, juggled his shopping bags. "For this place", he gave his verdict, "this is a good mall".

That underwhelming feeling was echoed by many others who flocked to the opening.

"I have seen better in Bokaro," said Raja Kumar, a 17-year-old student. According to Mohd Tabrez Alam, 18, enrolled in a computer course, "This mall is ok, but there are bigger malls elsewhere." The main reason why Bihar lags behind other states is because of its government's failure to focus on computer education and English, he said.

As it often happens in Bihar, an expression of discontent had seamlessly rearranged itself into a demand addressed to the state.

For the Nitish Kumar government, the problem in the coming days will be not just to assess the fallout of the JD(U)'s June split with its partner of 17 years, the BJP, and to see whether Modi's challenge, amplified in BJP bastions like Sitamarhi, Nitish's real challenge is made up of this: the break-up, that slashed his numbers from a comfortable 206 in a House of 243 to 118, and hived off an aggressive opposition of 91 BJP MLAs midway into his second term, coincides with a moment of vaulting aspirations in a state where government is still the dominant if not sole provider of goods and services.

And this comes at a time when the state's delivery in Nitish's second term is showing visible signs of lag, fatigue and failure. Or it is running up against constraints.

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