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Portrait of a politician as a soloist

Portrait of a politician as a soloist
Sankarshan Thakur has been a seasoned journalist with a varied yet consistent understanding of his home state, Bihar. With more than two decades in journalism, he is considered as one of the finest political reporters in India.

He has personal insights coupled with a sound repository of anecdotes which naturally make him expressive and restless. He once wrote the biography of Lalu Prasad Yadav and has now dished one for Nitish Kumar.

His books are synonymous with the troughs and crests of Bihar politics; the circles of which have been replete with countless incidents of gory dichotomies and political conundrums.  

This book talks about the making of Nitish Kumar – in personal and public life. To meet with the situational demands, Thakur offers laudatory and realistic narratives an easy passage. His intention: readers should be able to assess a strong leader, with fewer acquaintances. In isolation, this man (though without abjuring family affiliations) made possible, nothing short of a turnaround in badly administered Bihar. He needs to be given respect for a feat that required him to bypass his ideological forte to be in coalition with BJP.

The graph of the social life in Bihar has always been brimming with politics. An unalienable pastime, it is not surprising if the political actors there find themselves at loggerheads always. When Nitish Kumar commanded individual authority his focus was converged at Bihar’s development. He remain undettered in wresting Bihar back   from the lawlessness that Lalu Prasad Yadav, so brazenly advocated. With the BJP having contrived tactics, Nitish Kumar too alchemised in character. The coalition having fallen, he made the world take cognisance of the strategic games he was capable of. Nobody expected a relatively unkown Jitan Ram Manjhi as his replacement.

With Nitish no longer helming the coveted chair in Bihar, his attention had to catch the fancy of the political necessities at hand. Divisive as it may sound, he was back scrutinizing the political trade of ‘identity and caste’.

The heavily loaded political atmosphere in Bihar has made it increasingly ardous for Nitish or Lalu to singularly survive the onslaught of the bye elections to be held in 2014 for the Bihar assembly. The quagmires of the political corridors of Bihar are so onerous, that both these severe political adversaries have decided to campaign together for the first time in 24 years. This book albeit has more to do with the time, in which Nitish thought and acted on the actual Lohiate socialistic principles – unlike his two contemporary leaders, Ram Vilas Paswan and Lalu Yadav. The master stroke of Nitish breaking ranks with the Janata Dal and floating the Samata Party in the early nineties proved epochal for Bihar politics.

The book does a decent analysis of those years when the circumstances started favouring Nitish. His finding support in BJP partriarchs with whom he shared an enviable cordial relationship, proved the vital cog in the wheel of state politics. Nitish’s incongruity with Modi was not evident in his relationship with the BJP patriarchs and thus the association continued.  Probably because at that point in time he was not harboring ambitions to lead a third front government at the centre. Going back in time, this makes us reminisce about another very popular chief minister, Ramkrishna Hegde – who led Karnataka exceptionally well but met opposite fate once he reached New Delhi, with a dream to run a weak coalition of mavericks.

 In different parts, the book has nuanced details of Nitish Kumar’s gradual disenchantment with the changed NDA and his unwillingness to bring a political heir; someone who could take his legacy ahead. This could be touted as a failure but then the political pitch is full of uncertainities too!
Sidelining old ranks, Nitish established a legion of power brokers from diverse backgrounds to stay afloat in public.

In the course of satiating himself with such phoney power, Nitish became majorly apolitical, a grave loss to him. He was and is a thinking politicians but has changed significantly. Having made himself aloof to the aspirations and plights of Biharis, he has completely shifted his attention towards identity based politics. In the times to come, this may prove to be more detrimental than beneficial as Nitish and his political advisors may have opined.

This book is an essential read for all those who like to savour the bitter-sweet realities of Indian politics. This book could also throw some light on the largely mitigating relationship between personal agendas and collective responsibilities.

Having succumbed intermittently (sic) to games of the vanguard, if Nitish Kumar has found an ally in an erstwhile arch rival who has no moral sanctity to be prominent in Bihar – the common masses who were beneficiaries otherwise should start looking for option where they could find some empathy for their losses.

Atul K Thakur

Atul K Thakur

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