Bihar has been the subject of media discourse and remained in the spotlight for political churnings and changing alignments. BJP is back in the saddle in the state. It was Uttar Pradesh and now Bihar, both, have BJP governments at the helm. One in total domination and another with an alliance partner – JD(U) – with Nitish Kumar’s homecoming to the NDA fold.
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are two adjoining states; both are extremely richly endowed in tourism assets. Both have been languishing. Despite all their richness, for want of a better word, they have been ‘BIMARU’ states. On the other hand, from literally putting their assets together, consolidating upon them, marketing them across the country, and overseas, there are several states, noticeably Kerala and Goa, which have now claimed the status of being the shinning jewels of India’s tourism landscape.
So, in the past 20-30 years, while Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have remained ‘BIMARU’, some other states have put their acts together and transformed themselves in to truly world-class destinations.
Bihar and Uttar Pradesh’s tourism story have been a tale of lost opportunities. Despite being one of the most ancient repositories of India’s culture and history, in the absence of noteworthy infrastructure, through the years, tourism in these states have been overly dependent on Buddhist pilgrims arriving from several Southeast Asian countries – leading to a sporadic movement of travellers – turning business into a seasonal affair. It stands true specifically for Bihar.
Taking stock of how things are staking up, it is perhaps for the first time since the days of Congress’s hegemony in the centre and in states, back in the late 1980’s, when both the governments are being headed by the same party/coalition.
With these developments, it is an opportune time to put ‘tourism first’ as a criterion for economic and social development for these two states. They are large states and both have a common bond between them – which has also been a BIMARU circuit – Buddha. With the centre, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, all with the BJP in the driving seat, a dynamic minister in Nitin Gadkari leading the infrastructure development, there can be no excuse any more. This is the time when the Buddhist circuit should be visibly happening in the next two years. This could be BJP’s gift to India’s tourism for 2019. This must become a government agenda.
Now, in putting the needed infrastructure together, in creating the Buddhist circuit as a wholesome tourism product, in identifying other assets for infra development, like hotels and way-side amenities, governments will actually be creating an economic lifeline for this hinterland which has long been neglected, and bring prosperity to local populations, if all these plans involve local communities in the planning stage.