By Prabhat Kishore
Since one & half decades, the politics in Bihar is revolving around Nitish Kumar. In Vidhan Sabha election 2020, Bihar has once again decided to go forward under his leadership. The NDA, lead by him, has returned to power securing 125 of 243 seats out and he became CM for record 7th time.
Nitish Kumar, who hails from Kurmi Kisan family from Kalyanbigha, Harnaut (Nalanda), has started his political journey in 1974; when student movement led by Jai Prakash Narayan was evolved. Then studying in Bihar College of Engineering (now NIT) at Patna, he fully devoted himself in the revolution. He was detained under MISA in 1974 and during emergency in 1975. In 1977, he contested Vidhan Sabha election from Harnaut constituency against veteran Socialist Party leader Bhola Prasad Singh, but could not succeed. He again lost 1980 election to Arun Singh, who had been wrongly acquitted in Belchhi massacre. In 8th Lok Sabha election 1984, Sri Dharamvir Singh, veteran Congress leader and ex-minister in Indira Gandhi Government lost to an incumbent of Congress (I) in the sympathy wave after assassination of Indira Gandhi. There was great resentment in public due to defeat of Dharamvir Babu in Harnaut & Chandi segments. Nitish has campaigned for him in the Lok Sabha election. This helped Nitish to get elected to Vidhan Sabha in 1985 in his third attempt, after which his political graph boomed sharply.
He was appointed as President of Yuva Lok Dal in 1987 and secretary general of newly formed Janata Dal in 1989. In 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 he was elected for Lok Sabha from Barh Constituency and in 2004 from Nalanda constituency. In Union government, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he served as Minister of State (Agriculture) in 1990, Cabinet minister (Railway) in 1998, surface transport minister in 1999, agriculture minister in 1999 and Railway minister in 2001.
Nitish was the man, who influenced legislatures to elect Laloo as leader of legislature party after the demise of Karpoori Thakur, ex-CM and as CM when Janata Dal came to power in 1990. He was famous as “Chanakya” of Bihar politics. Nitish and Laloo both were termed as right & left arms of Devi Lal in Bihar; but when Mandal commission report was implemented, they supported V.P. Singh.
Janata Dal had come to power on certain promises to the people. Nitish presented various project works before State government to implement, but now they were not the priority of Laloo. He sidelined the suggestions and started loose comment about him. Nitish Kumar was gradually cornered and it became unbearable to survive with Laloo. The aggressive rally of Kurmi Samaj and Lav-Kush Sammelan in 1994 was the sign of resentment among non-Yadav sections of society against the regime. Nitish joined the rally in late hour and recognized that suitable time to fight has appeared. Voices from other small artisan & landless communities also raised for their upliftment and share in power.
In 1994, Samata Party was formed under the leadership of veteran socialist George Fernandes. In 1995 election Nitish Kumar was projected as CM candidate, but the Party flopped. After due consideration BJP-Samata Party alliance came in to existence and its positive impact was seen in coming Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. In 2000 election, no Party got absolute majority and Nitish was appointed CM by then Governor. But he did not succeed to gather majority support from MLAs and resigned. After downfall of NDA government led by Vajpayee in 2004, he fully devoted himself to Bihar and led several “Yatra” against the misrule of State govt. In Nov. 2005 election, NDA led by him got full majority and he took oath of CM. Since then he is the CM, except 278 days of his nominee successor Jitan Ram Manjhi.
Nitish Kumar kept himself away from casteism and family coterie. He marched forward with balanced social engineering to keep all community as against “MY” combination of RJD and “Upper caste” of Congress, BJP or Communists. He always preferred other castes in Bureaucracy as well as Party, even at the cost of genuine rights of his own castemen. Earlier seniormost IAS officers K.D. Sinha and presently Arun Kr. Singh have not been made Chief Secretary because they belong to his caste. IPS officer Ashish Ranjan Sinha stepped down from DGP due to same reason. Despite being backbone of the Party, his castemen never got due share in candidature of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Vidhan Sabha or Vidhan Parishad and on ministerial berths. Extremely backward castes, comprising nearly 30% of population, backward Pasmanda Muslims, Mahadalits and women have always been his top priority. In 2020 Bihar Election actually the political war was not “NDA vs MG” but was “Nitish vs All” and these depressed sections of society, called “Silent Voters” stood firmly behind Nitish in the arena, even when BJP’s core upper caste voters betrayed him.
Since early days of his political life, Nitish has ambition to do welfare works, if got power. When he took charge of CM, the situation in all sectors was alarming. He prioritized his works for good governance. To tackle law & order situation, fast track courts were made and criminals have to go behind bar. He gave impetus to growth and re-orient infrastructure sector activities in all corner of the State. Roads, bridges, bypasses, school/college/hospital/police station/panchayat buildings were built and maintained. In education sector Drop out rate in schools, particularly of girls, was very high. Various schemes to attract the boys & girls such as Mukhyamantri Cycle Yojana/Poshak Yojana/Kishori Swasthya Karyakram were launched. Primary school within 1 KM radius, upper primary school in 3 KM radius of the village and high school in every panchayats have been opened.In higher secondary sector, inter classes were detached from colleges and attached to high schools, for convenience of rural masses. Engineering/Medical/ITI institutions have been opened in backwards areas. To meet financial crisis for higher education, Student Credit Card scheme for soft loan upto Rs 4 lakh have been launched. Before 2005, uninterrupted supply of electricity to people, even in urban areas, was a dream. Its production as well as distribution were planned and sufficient electricity is now available to the people.
Gender empowerment and strengthening have been an ambitious goal of Nitish. In addition to Poshak & Cycle Yojana in schools, 50 % reservation in Panchayats and Local bodies and 35 % reservation in government jobs for women, Mukhyamantri Kanya Utthan Yojana for phase wise development of girls, Jeevika programme for rural women have been implemented.
On the tune of “Sapt Kranti” vision during JP movement, he planned 7-point programme, called “Saat-Nischay” for all round development of the State. The Saat-Nischay includes (1) Aarthik Hal Yuvaon ko Bal for financially helping students & youthsto become self-reliant, (2) Aarakshit Rojgar Mahilaon ka Adhikar through reservation for female in jobs as well as Panchayat & local bodies, (3) Har Ghar Bijli, (4) Har Ghar Nal ka Jal, (5) Har Ghar tak Pakki Gali-Naliyan, (6) Gharon mein Shauchalay Nirman, (7) Awsar Badhe Aage Padhe by opening technical/medical/nursing/Polytechnic/ITI/Para Medical institutes in every districts.
The positive face of Nitish is that his priority is not only government welfare schemes. His start-ups in social sectors are more praise-worthy. Public campaign against age-long social evils like Child marriage, Dowry System and Alcoholism is unique, as these issues are not said to be vote pulling agenda for politicians. Jal-Jiwan-Hariyali scheme for conservation of water is also an ambitious mission. The ban on alcoholism has reduced domestic violence to great extent. The Sharab Mafias are aggressively campaigning against Nitish and under their pressure a lobby comprising of opposition as well as some BJP leaders are opposing the ban on the name of revenue collection.
Although a lot of works have been done or are in progress, but a lot are still to be done. A generation has changed in past 20-30 years and they have not faced the worst prevailing situations. Naturally, they will judge and act on the basis of present scenario. Opening of Engineering and Medical colleges donot come under ambit of development until its graduates are absorbed in jobs. Presently unemployment is a major problem, not only in Bihar but in all states. All vacant seats in government as well as private sectors have to be filled up. Small scale and agriculture based industries should be established. Various defunct factories should be revived. Central government have to make policy to establish new heavy industry factories in backward regions like Bihar. The rivers should be connected to tackle the problem of seasonal drought & flood. The shortcomings prevailing in schools, colleges, hospitals, transport and other sectors should be carefully rectified. Criminals and Corrupt personals should be crushed. Officers belonging to depressed class should also be positioned on strategic posts. The government should make time bound programme in all works sector for its timely implementation.
Nitish Kumar is always criticized by his so-called secular political opposition parties for his alignment with BJP, although earlier all non-Congress governments in Bihar have been formed with direct or indirect support of BJP or erstwhile Jansangh. In 1990, Laloo Prasad had become CM with the support of BJP. In 2014, Nitish also tried to part away from BJP when its leadership was transferred to Narendra Modi; but in election, his works were not converted in to votes and as earlier castes & religion remain the major poll issue. Despite being in alliance with BJP, he never compromised with 3 “C” i.e. Crime, Corruption and Communalism. As against Congress regime, his whole tenure remained riot-free.
Nitish Kumar have always been a struggler since inception of his political career. In the political war of 2020, it was his struggle that despite being target of all powerful groups comprising of opposition alliances, Liquor Mafia, biased electronic media as well as his own ally BJP’s core upper caste voters, he won the battle, with some bruises in terms of less number of seats. As per pre-Poll strategy, Nitish has become 34th CM of Bihar despite having less number of lawmakers of his Party and seeing the history of BJP’s “Chaal, Charitra, Chehara”, it is obvious that his struggle would still continue.
(Author is a technocrat & academician. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)