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Nitish Kumar: Soft-spoken and socialist at heart

Patna: He graduated as an engineer but plunged into Bihar politics in the early 1970s. Sophisticated and soft-spoken Nitish Kumar, known for his development and good governance, is again set to become Bihar's chief minister.Nitish

IANS [ Updated: February 21, 2015 8:44 IST ]
nitish kumar soft spoken and socialist at heart
nitish kumar soft spoken and socialist at heart

Patna: He graduated as an engineer but plunged into Bihar politics in the early 1970s. Sophisticated and soft-spoken Nitish Kumar, known for his development and good governance, is again set to become Bihar's chief minister.

Nitish Kumar had resigned last year after his bold step of snapping ties with long-time ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) proved counter-productive, and resulted in the Janata Dal-United's rout in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With a commitment to good governance and socialist principles, Nitish Kumar has once again assured the people of Bihar that if he gets an opportunity again, he will serve them in the same spirit that he did for eight and a half years.

He has made it clear that good governance was and will remain his priority.

Nitish Kumar led the JD-U and its then ally, the BJP, to a sweeping victory in one of India's most populous and politically key states in both 2005 and 2010, displacing his one-time mentor Lalu Prasad.

Due to Nitish Kumar's vision and hard work, a lawless, under-developed state was in the news for development, high growth rate and improved law and order situation.

"It was the technocrat (engineer) in him that reflected in his bid to develop Bihar and Nitish Kumar became a 'vikas purush' (man of development). Even his critics agree that he has been trying hard for a turnaround of the state," according to JD-U state president Vashisht Narain Singh, who has been close to Nitish Kumar since the 1990s.

For one who for years seemed to work under the shadow of the more vocal and more charismatic Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar could emerge as a leader in his own right only after he broke away to chart an independent course in the mid-1990s.

His first stint in power in Patna was short lived. Becoming chief minister for the first time March 3, 2000 with the support of half a dozen 'bahubalis' (criminals-turned-politicians), he had to resign within a week after failing to prove his majority.

Five years later, he was back in the saddle, thanks to an alliance with the BJP, a party he had courted since 1996 but whose Hindutva politics he strongly rejected.

It was this different stand that he claimed forced him to end the JD-U's 17-year-old alliance with the BJP after it chose then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as its face for the 2014 polls.

But the break-up proved costly in the general elections, with the JD-U reduced to two seats out of the state's 40.

As the results came out, Nitish Kumar accepted responsibility for the debacle and put in his papers.

Manjhi was picked by him as his replacement.

But Nitish Kumar's differences with Manjhi widened so much that Manjhi was expelled from the JD-U after he refused to resign.

As chief minister, Nitish Kumar, a man of few words, went about rebuilding a Bihar that had universally come to be identified with bad politics, poor governance and low quality of life.

Without noise and bluster, he relaid roads that had virtually ceased to exist, built 12,000 bridges and completed long delayed infrastructure projects, appointed over two lakh school teachers to rebuild the shattered educational system and ensured that doctors attended health centres.

He cracked down on criminals and gangsters with strong links to politics. He ordered speedy trials and over 80,000 criminals, many of them politicians, were convicted.

In no time, Bihar's notorious crime rate dropped, so much so that young women began to venture out at night in cities like Patna.

But what won Nitish Kumar his popularity was the decision to gift bicycles to thousands of girls so that they could go to their educational institutions without any hassle. Later his government announced it will provide sanitary napkins to girls.

Like Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar was a product of Bihar's student movement of the 1970s.

A teetotaller who detests tobacco, the widower has a son. He keeps his family away from the limelight, with his son Nishant Kumar out of politics.

Born in 1951, Nitish Kumar was elected to the Bihar assembly for the first time in 1985. He became president of the Yuva Lok Dal in 1987 and secretary general of the then undivided Janata Dal two years later.

He was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1989 and went on to win five parliamentary elections from Bihar.

A minister of state in the V.P. Singh government, he became railway minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government but resigned when a train disaster claimed the lives of about 250 people. He returned to the cabinet as minister for surface transport and agriculture.

But all through his innings in Delhi, he never lost sight of his ultimate goal: govern Bihar to develop it with his pet agenda "development with justice".

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