In 1980 Bihar Assembly elections, Nitish Kumar stood from Harnaut, a stronghold of his fellow Kurmis. He lost the elections to a ‘bahubali’ Kurmi who presented the face of OBC mobilisation, right at the time when everyone were screaming ‘Mandalisation’. “The paradox of Nitish’s identity in the election was that while the upper castes and the Yadavs saw him as a Kurmi, the Kurmis did not see him as a Kurmi. They saw him as a liberal who would not stand for the interests of the community”, Arun Sinha writes in Nitish Kumar’s biography, ‘Nitish Kumar and The Rise of Bihar’.
It took 25 years for him to break these shackles and thus Bihar embarked upon a new journey that was only moving up.
Come 2005, Nitish ended Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi’s 15 year stronghold over 1 Anne Marg-the Chief Minister’s residence in Patna- and brought about a plethora of changes to bring back the governance of the ailing state back on track. From Jankari scheme to dispel the corruption, to increase the no. of girls attending the school, Kumar’s efforts have been substantial. Under his governance, the state saw a record no. of criminal prosecutions in the fast track courts. The no. caste related crimes that had long been detrimental to Bihar’s development saw a downward trend.
The good work went on and a second consecutive term was almost inevitable. The 2010 elections were in all sense the most clean and the fairest polls ever. No bloodshed, poll violence or poll booth hijacking bore evidence to the effective governance in the state. The very fact that Bihar was declared the fastest growing state at 13.1 % showed the arduous work Nitish Kumar had put behind the State’s development. Not only as the CM of Bihar but Kumar as the Union Minister of Railways, came out with revolutionary measures like ‘Tatkal bookings’ and internet ticket booking facility.
Nitish Kumar’s recent furore against his own alliance have ruffled many a feather, but it would be grossly inappropriate to speculate if Kumar is trying put forth his name as the Prime Minesterial candidate. Lalu Prasad Yadav and his other political rivals are bound to make much hue and cry about Kumar’s secular credentials but his rather stubborn attitude not to endorse ‘the brand Modi’ has earned him many accolades. This isn’t any vote-bank politics, but what Kumar genuinely feels. Kumar refusing to accept Modi’s funds for the flood victims in Bihar may not have been the smartest of moves to impress his colleagues in NDA and BJP, but definitely showed the amount of disgust he has against Modi’s (rather unsecular) misdeeds in Gujarat. Kumar have had a clean and blemish-free political career and talking of credentials to prove his mettle, he has it in bundles to be a popular leader and be the Prime Minister possibly. But being pragmatic, it may be a huge uphill task for him if he were to get into the fray. There is still two years heading into the Lok Sabha elections, which is more than enough for the political situation to go topsy-turvy. Kumar would certainly have an important and definitive say in choosing NDA’s candidate for the revered post but keeping in mind the political calculations, it’s all too early to say anything.