For Nitish Kumar, who is at the helm of affairs for the third time in his 10-year’s chief ministerial stint, there are challenges galore from both within and outside the party. Interestingly, the political battle in the state would be fought on a different note and tempo as friends have become foes and arch rivals have buried the hatchet to checkmate their one and only opponent, the BJP, in assembly polls. No doubt, the marriage of JD(U) and RJD is the result of the debacle that both the regional satraps faced in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. The pertinent question, however, is whether this realignment would survive for a long period.
Some key issues such as who will be the face of the grand alliance and who gets what are some contentious issues which both the parties need to work on. In an attempt to keep the things under wraps, JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar presented an opaque picture on the matter of merger of both the parties in the state.
The JD(U) spokesperson said, “First, let things take shape. I will personally tell you when the decision of merger happens. Senior leaders of both the parties are working on developing a consensus on different models to tackle the challenges ahead of us in assembly poll.”
“No doubt, we have several challenges to face in near future, but chief minister has a very concrete strategy to overcome those. The CM is known for devising problem solving strategies. It is the BJP who should be blamed for ditching the people of Bihar, not JD(U) or Nitish Kumar,” said Neeraj Kumar, who represents Patna in the Bihar Legislative Council.
Hopefully, Nitish Kumar, who is also known as ‘Mr Clean’, must have weighed the issues that may give jolt during the legislative assembly polls. Among several other concerns, the social hatred propagated by Jitan Ram Manjhi, after the later was dethroned, may cost Kumar dearly. “Its a fact that caste parameter is at the core of politics in state elections. Since, the strategy of Nitish Kumar to garner Dalit votes by elevating Manjhi has failed. Kumar will have to first deal with this issue on urgent basis. It’s also an open secret that Manjhi is working on behest of his akkas in BJP, to dent the Dalit vote share of JD(U) or say grand alliance comprising RJD, Congress,” said Dr Shefali Roy, HoD of Political Science at Patna Women’s College.
“It’s beyond our understanding that how a person like Nitish Kumar could leave the CM’s chair just to avoid face-off with Prime Minister Narendra Modi by playing the card of moral responsibility. This was not expected from him. The intelligentsia of Bihar is not convinced by this argument of Kumar,” said Roy, who is the only faculty in the Department of Political Science from the total 21 permanent teachers at Patna’s premier college.
Going back in November 2005, when the first NDA government involving JD(U) and BJP and headed by Nitish Kumar was formed after destroying apturing the 15-year-old citadel of RJD, the situation was very different. The mandate was given to NDA to resolve the problems of law and order, power, irrigation, employment, infrastructure, etc. Somehow, in the first stint, the NDA government worked hard to change the tag from a BIMARU to a developing state. The government worked in the direction of reviving sick units and building roads in urban as well as rural areas.
The decline of Nitish government started after he snapped the ties with the BJP in June 2013 over the decision of BJP to anoint Narendra Modi as party’s PM nominee. After that things went
haywire. The government looked clueless on every key issue, including power generation, quality education and infrastructure development.
Pointing out the challenges for Nitish government, a senior official in the Nitish government said, “The situation of education in the state is getting worse. The government has not opened a single technical institution and not even acted in the direction to appoint faculties. There are in total 80 technical teachers only across the state. The condition of primary education is pathetic as the Nitish government in its first spell recruited teachers in hoards on the basis of marks only, which is proving more fatal as students of Class V are able to solve the problems of Maths of Class II.” The government should have trained the teachers that would had helped them in imparting qualitative education to students. The instances of teachers not knowing the names of country’s President or Prime Minister, state’s chief minister are very common, the official further added.
“No concrete step has been taken to promote industry in the state. Had the government promoted industry sector, there would have been more employment generation. There are
several projects related to broadening of roads biting the dust,” a Patna-based trader said. Admitting the plethora of challenges, JD(U) leader Neeraj Kumar said, “The turnaround of Bihar by Nitish during the past over eight years has been marred by Manjhi interregnum. Nitish has to work harder and also he has very little time.” “During the last nine months when Manjhi was at the helm of affairs, a brake was put on development and law and order situation deteriorated. Manjhi’s strategy to propagate the social hatred will come a cropper. The Dalit vote will remain intact,” Kumar added. Apart from manifold challenges before the chief minister, Kumar said, the biggest challenge is governance. “Nitish Kumar’s USP was good governance and now the improvement is required not only in law and order but on every front from education to health, infrastructure to development and social welfare to delivery.
Governance during Manjhi era was affected mainly at bureaucratic level and transfer industry flourished that affected normal functioning of the government,” he added. Nitish has resolved to work with zeal and dedication and ready to deliver development with justice which he had pledged in the winter of 2005. He fully knows that not only on political scenario but social fronts has also changed.
To win back the confidence of Mahadalit society would be an enormous task for him amid the reports of simmering discontent among this section of society in the wake of Manjhi episode. The Mahadalits who were mildly influenced with the crowning of their man in May last, are now quite bitter and angry over his removal. BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi retorted, “The Mahadalit society which had been a strong supporter of Nitish has fully turned against him and they are swearing to vote against him.”
It might be a Herculean task to amend the numerous decisions that Manjhi has made for the Mahadalits, including reservation for them in contract for construction works particularly roads and bridges, five decimal land to Mahdalaits for house, deployment of cops of Mahdalit sections in each police station and others. Before quitting on February 20, Manjhi in just four days made over a hundred decisions, which are likely to be reviewed by the new government.
On the political front, Nitish will have to manage and settle down with traditional rival Lalu Prasad in the changed scenario. In 2005 when he came to power, the BJP was an ally and the party extended full cooperation to him in running the administration. The RJD was not even a forceful Opposition then. But now with a powerful Opposition, Nitish will have to tread very cautiously. His concentration on improving governance during the next nine months might create certain hindrances in view of a crucial election and seat sharing with new allies even if the merger of the Janata Parivar is not materialised by that time.
CHIEF MINISTERIAL SPELLS
First Term: March 3, 2000 - March 10, 2000
On March 3, 2000 Nitish Kumar was appointed the Chief Minister of Bihar but he resigned seven days later as he failed to prove majority. RJD leader Lalu Prasad enjoyed the majority
Second Term: Nov 24, 2005 - Nov 24, 2010
In November 2005, he led the NDA to victory in Bihar assembly elections bringing an end to the 15-year rule of the Lalu Prasad-led RJD. He was sworn-in as the chief minister of the state on November 24, 2005. Under his government, Bihar developed an electronic version of the Right to Information Act called Jankari scheme. In addition, he launched the e-shakti NREGS programme, by which rural people can get employment information by telephone. He is credited with improving infrastructure, and reducing crime, widely felt to be serious problems in the state. Under his governance Bihar has had a record number of criminal prosecutions through fast track courts. His government generated employment in police services and teaching and Bihar recorded record construction work during his five year mandate, surpassing the national average. During this period, women and extremely backward castes were given 50 per cent reservation in electorals for the first time ever in India.
Third Term: November 26, 2010 - May 17, 2014
In 2010, Nitish Kumar’s party swept back to power along with its allies (at that time), BJP. On November 26, 2010, Kumar took oath as the chief minister of Bihar. This was his second consecutive term as CM of the state. In a keenly fought contest, Kumar led JD(U)-BJP combine won with four-fifth majority. NDA won 206 seats while RJD won 22 seats. On May 17, 2014, he submitted his resignation to Bihar Governor – a day after his party fared poorly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, winning just two seats against 20 in the previous election. Kumar resigned, taking the moral responsibility of his party’s poor performance in the election, and Jitan Ram Manjhi took over.
Fourth Term: February 22, 2015 - till date
Nitish Kumar took the oath as Bihar CM for the 4th time on February 22, 2015 after the former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi resigned on February 20, just a few hours before he was scheduled to prove his majority in the state assembly.