Patna: Nitish Kumar, often referred to as Chanakya of Bihar politics, lived up to the moniker when he surprisingly joined hands with arch rival RJD boss Lalu Prasad to script a third consecutive term for himself as Chief Minister after being bruised and bloodied in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Following the age-old proverb enemy's enemy is friend, the JD(U) leader whose party won just two of the state's 40 seats in the Lok Sabha poll, a development that impelled him to step down and hand over the reins to Jitan Ram Manjhi, joined hands with Lalu to halt bete noire Narendra Modi's juggernaut in Bihar.
Lalu and Nitish, friend-turned-foe in state politics, sank their differences to revive an alliance that began over 40 years ago with the students' agitation, which soon turned into a pan-India movement led by veteran socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan.
Though Lalu got lucky in his very first outing in the electoral arena, winning Lok Sabha poll in 1977, it took Kumar, an Electrical Engineer from NIT Patna, then known as Bihar College of Engineering, eight more years to get elected to the state assembly for the first time in 1985, after having lost twice.
Though as different as chalk and cheese, Kumar backed Lalu in bagging the chair of the Leader of Opposition in the assembly in 1989 and again when he challenged Ram Sundar Das and Raghunath Jha, nominees of Prime Minister V P Singh and Chandra Shekhar respectively, for the chief minister's post after Janata Dal came to power in Bihar in 1990.
Kumar, who won the 1989 Lok Sabha polls from Barh, shifted his focus to Delhi, getting elected to LS in 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999. He became Minister of State for Agriculture in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and then briefly the Railway Minister in 1999. He resigned after the train tragedy at Gaisal in West Bengal in 1999 in which nearly 300 people were killed.
Suave and articulate, Kumar again became Railway Minister in 2001 and continued till 2004 during which period he was credited with introducing several reforms in the public sector behemoth like internet ticket booking and Tatkal system of instant booking. The Godhra train burning incident in February 2002, which provided the spark that soon consumed Gujarat in communal flames, occurred during his tenure at Rail Bhavan.