Tough time for Nitish Kumar in 2013

2013 proved to be a tough year for Nitish Kumar who had to walk the tightrope after being pushed to the brink following JD-U`s split from BJP, the terror attack in Bodh Gaya and serial blasts in the state capital during Narendra Modi`s rally.

Patna: 2013 proved to be a tough year for Nitish Kumar who had to walk the tightrope after being pushed to the brink following JD-U`s split from BJP, the terror attack in Bodh Gaya and serial blasts in the state capital during Narendra Modi`s rally.

Bihar government, which had earned praise from within the country as well as abroad due to a slew of factors like improved law and order situation, a high 14 per cent annual economic growth and the novel initiative of bicycle scheme for girls, saw a dent in its image after the terror attacks.

The arrest of Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and his aide Asadullah from Raxual on India-Nepal border in August unravelled a terror network in the state. In addition to the two blasts, the state was rocked by several incidents of Maoists attacks in Naxal-hit areas like Jamui, Gaya and Aurangabad killing nearly 25 security personnel.

The death of 23 children after eating contaminated midday meal in a school in Saran district in July brought another infamy to the state.

Though the Nitish Kumar government won the trust vote with support from Congress and Independents after parting ways with BJP, it nonetheless lost its earlier sheen due to Naxal and terrorists attacks and some criminal episodes prompting the Opposition BJP to allege that the state appears to be returning to old days of "jungle raj".

The period also witnessed a fierce fight between old rivals Kumar and his Gujarat counterpart Modi though both refrained from taking each other`s name.

Modi, who was kept out of Bihar by BJP to ensure smooth running of the NDA government all these years, paid two visits to the state and made a scathing attack on Kumar for indulging in "opportunistic" politics.

With his October 27 `Hunkar rally` rocked by serial blasts killing seven persons and a terrorist, Modi returned to the state again on November 2 to pay a visit to the victims.

BJP leaders led by former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi kept the heat on Kumar and his JD(U) government both inside assembly and on the streets through daily barbs.

Launching a counter-offensive, Kumar attacked Modi saying he had "poor knowledge of history", referring to some of his gaffes during rallies, and vowed not to allow his "divisive designs" to succeed in Bihar.

Modi hit back, saying Kumar was enjoying "56 bhog" (elaborate feast) at the JD(U) convention while his rally was bombed in Patna.

RJD, which registered an impressive win in Maharajganj Parliamentary bypolls in early June, had its share of bad luck with Lalu Prasad going to jail in an old fodder scam case and losing Chhapra Lok Sabha seat through automatic disqualification post-conviction. However, Lalu`s release on bail on December 16 is likely to boost the morale of the RJD workers ahead of Lok Sabha elections next year.

Congress, which initially appeared to be reaching out to Kumar after his parting of ways with BJP seems to been caught in dilemma over choosing between Kumar and Lalu Prasad for alliance on 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Apparently unperturbed by the fallout of parting ways
with BJP, Kumar presented annual report card of his government on November 25 upon completion of eight years in the office. But, counter report cards of BJP, Congress and RJD cast a shadow over the JD(U) government`s lofty claims about development.

Kumar reiterated that governance as well as law and order have not suffered on account of split with BJP. The saffron party, however, made persistent charge that the Nitish Kumar government was "soft" on terrorists due to vote bank politics.

Later in the year, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde fired a salvo at Kumar rapping his government over Naxal problem. Shinde in his letter to Kumar pointed to the alarming rise in Maoists attack and raised concern over lack of coordination with other states. Kumar objected to the letter which, he said, was not based on "critical analysis".

The government, in its report card, also highlighted improvement in road infrastructure, saying it has been able to achieve its promise of reducing travel distance from any place in the state to capital Patna to a maximum of six hours.

In the field of power, the government boasted that the electricity supply doubled in 2013 from 1200 MW last year.

As part of women empowerment measures, the state government announced 35 per cent reservation for women in recruitment to police force.

Another pioneering initiative was making it mandatory for a person to have a toilet at home for contesting panchayat and local bodies elections.

The BJP, in its new avatar as the main Opposition party, however, continued to trash the JD(U) government`s development claims, saying governance has taken a hit due to the chief minister`s "lack of will" to expand his council of ministers even six months after he dumped the ally.

Kumar`s refrain was that he will expand his council of ministers in a "surprise" manner at an "appropriate time."