Ritesh K Srivastava
The elections in Bihar are a litmus test for Janta Dal (U) leader and present Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is regarded as the harbinger of a ‘change’ that has begun to sweep one of the most backward states of India.
Nitish’s swearing-in as Chief Minister after 2005 Assembly elections was seen as a turning point in the political history of Bihar and also marked the beginning of a new era. The people of Bihar pinned a lot of hopes on this qualified engineer, who is no stranger to caste-ridden politics.
In the past four and half years, the Nitish government took various initiatives to fasten the pace of development in the state and worked with vigour to remove the `backward` tag of Bihar. A bitter war of words has now started between the Centre and the state government to take credit for the development which the state has seen in the past four plus years.
After becoming the Chief Minister, he worked in the directions of making Bihar a developed state and creating ‘Brand Bihar’ by announcing sops for big corporate houses to invest here.
In a bid to woo the crucial votes of the minority community in Bihar, the CM announced scholarships for Muslims. His government provided reservations for Muslims, Mahadalits and the Extremely Backward Castes both at the panchayat level and in government jobs.
Nitish’s government took various measures to strengthen the dilapidated health sector of the state and despatched thousands of doctors to serve in primary health centres across Bihar. In the education sector, the government launched a special recruitment drive to appoint thousands of teachers for primary schools across the state and arranged for timely disbursment of their salaries.
The JD-(U) leader’s popularity went to dizzying heights after he launched a scheme to provide bicycles for girls so that they could travel to their educational institutes without any hassles.
Improving the faltering infrastructure has been the top priority of his government as several construction projects have come up, many new roads connecting cities to remote villages have been made and numerous bridges built.
The most important achievement of Nitish government has been its crackdown on the rising crime rate in Bihar. The CM showed a lot of guts by re-opening the Bhagalpur riot cases and ensured that the accused were put behind bars.
Nitish was born in Bakhtiarpur and his father Kaviraj Ram Lakhan Singh was a noted freedom fighter. His family was close to a great Gandhian leader, Anugrah Narayan Sinha who is regarded as the founder of modern Bihar. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the Bihar College of Engineering, now NIT Patna.
Nitish was actively involved in Jayaprakash Narayan`s movement between 1974 and 1977. He first entered the Bihar Legislative Assembly in 1985 as an Independent. In 1987, he was made the president of the Yuva Lok Dal. Two years later, he was appointed as the secretary-general of the Janata Dal in Bihar. The year also saw him entering the 9th Lok Sabha for the first time.
He has, in the past, held several portfolios as a Union Minister under various governments. In 1989, Nitish served as the Union Minister of State for Agriculture in Prime Minister V P Singh’s government.
In 1991, he was re-elected to the Lok Sabha and became general gecretary of the Janata Dal at the national level and the deputy leader of the party in Parliament.
He represented Barh parliamentary constituency (Bihar) in the Lok Sabha between 1989 and 2004. He briefly served as the Union Minister for Railways and Minister for Surface Transport and then as the Minister for Agriculture in 1998-99.
In August 1999, he resigned following the railway accident at Gaisal in North East India.
Later that year, he rejoined the Cabinet as Union Minister for Agriculture. From 2001 to May 2004 he served as the Union Cabinet Minister for Railways in the NDA Government.
In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections he contested elections from two constituencies, Barh and Nalanda. He was elected from Nalanda but lost from his traditional constituency, Barh. He was then the leader of the Janata Dal (United) Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha.
He is currently member of the Legislative Council of Bihar.
There is no doubt that Nitish Kumar’s leadership has brought paradigm shift in the lives of millions of poor people of the state and it is for all these reasons that the reformer of modern Bihar is seeking a second term to continue with his agenda of development and progress.