Nitish Kumar – Can he stop Narendra Modi?

Known for good governance and socialist principles, Nitish Kumar has put Bihar back on the development track.

By Kamna Arora | Updated: Apr 08, 2014, 14:06 PM IST

Kamna Arora

Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar is the Chief Minister of Bihar. Known for good governance and socialist principles, Nitish Kumar has put Bihar back on the development track.

In the run-up to General Elections, Nitish Kumar`s Janata Dal (United) is left with virtually no partners. Kumar, who led his JD(U) and its former ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to a sweeping election win in one of the India`s most politically significant states, seems to be isolated on his own land, thanks to Narendra Modi wave.

Narendra Modi`s emergence as the BJP`s frontman in the 2014 polls triggered the fallout between JD(U) and BJP in 2013. On June 21 last year, Nitish Kumar announced that his party was compelled to break the 17-year-old alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party as it has deviated and taken a different position. Justifying the decision, Nitish in an interview said the JD(U) felt that the situation has gone from bad to worse in NDA. “An atmosphere was being created where one personality was being given more importance. When some BJP leaders spoke to us on the issue they were unable to give us an assurance on the prime ministerial candidate,” Nitish said.
When reminded that his party had remained in the NDA even after 2002 Gujarat riots, the JD(U) leader justified it by saying that it was a tactical understanding with the BJP. However, he made it a point to clarify that his party never supported Hindutva politics or forego secular values.

Nitish now dreams of emerging as a consensus candidate for the prime ministerial post in the Third Front.

Kumar graduated as an engineer but entered Bihar`s politics in the early 1970s when he was still a student. Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar emerged as student leaders during the JP Movement. The duo were friends initially; both were ardent supporters of the Mandal Commission’s caste-based reservation. However, after working for years under Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar broke away to chart an independent course and emerged as a leader. He has witnessed many ups and downs in Bihar and national politics. His first political stint in Patna was disastrous.
Kumar became chief minister for the first time on March 03, 2000. However, he had to call it quits within seven days after failing to prove majority. After five years, he was back in the game, courtesy an alliance with the BJP.

After being ditched by Congress, the JD(U) is expected to return to the NDA fold if the BJP forces Modi to step down as its prime ministerial candidate.

Born in 1951, Kumar is a teetotaller. He was elected to the Bihar Assembly in 1985 for the first time. In 1987, he became president of the Yuva Lok Dal and two years later, he became the secretary general of the then undivided Janata Dal. He got elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1989, and went on to win five Parliamentary Elections from Bihar. He became railway minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. However, he resigned owning moral responsibility for a train accident that occurred in Gaisal which claimed 250 lives. He later took over as the minister for surface transport and agriculture.

Nitish Kumar is known for rebuilding Bihar after years of ignominy as a state riled with poor governance, bad politics and low quality life. As soon as he came into power, he strengthened law-and-order system in the state, relaid roads, completed infrastructure projects, appointed school teachers, refurbished healthcare system.

Nitish Kumar is credited with changing the face of Bihar to some extent. However, at the time when he is said to be bracing for the toughest electoral battle of his career, he is looking more isolated.