Though the Lok Sabha is the Lower House of the Parliament, it is the more difficult test to score in. The reason? The General Elections (as in the one coming up in 2014) are for the Lok Sabha. Candidates are elected by the general populace of the country to Lok Sabha seats. Winning a Lok Sabha seat denotes popularity and performance (if you are re-elected).
The above was setting the context so that Nitish Kumar’s biggest achievement is understood: He has been re-elected in the Lok Sabha 6 times continuously (from the 9th Lok Sabha in 1989 to the 14th Lok Sabha in 2009)! An engineer by education and a politician by birth (his father was a politician too), in a long political career spanning various stops and alliances, he has been associated with politicians as diverse as Jayparaksh Narayan (leader of the single biggest post-Independence movement in the 1970s) to Laloo Prasad Yadav.
The steady jog if his career took an upward flight in 2005 when he became the Chief Minister of Bihar for the second time (his first stint as the Chief Minister of Bihar lasted one week!). At that time the state had gained notoriety in the rest of the country as the land of lawlessness, of goondaism. While the notoriety is not a recorded fact, it is experiential knowledge.
A few short years after Nitish Kumar became CM, information of progress began filtering out of Bihar. It registered because such news about Bihar hadn’t been heard – forever. Those were the years when non-Congress ruled states like Bihar (Nitish represented the JDU), Gujarat (Modi from BJP) and Naveen Patnaik (Orissa then, Odisha now) were making enviable progress and the CMs were held up as emulation-worthy models. There was a practical love fest between these parties and vociferous mutual admiration societies between the CMs.
The BJP – JDU alliance in Bihar continued working wonders when they swept the previous polls winning by 4/5th majority. No other party gained enough votes to form an Opposition! So what soured the honeymoon? Nitish Kumar went against Modi with a finality that ended the 17 year old successful and winning alliance. His public statements state the same ‘ol, same ‘ol anti-Modi propaganda while the chatterati and whisperati claim it is his personal ambitions and jealousy that turned him into a dog-in-the-manger.
Also, sadly for a state which was supposed to be doing well under his leadership, he asked for backward status for Bihar in 2012 (politically this is for subsidies of all forms, but as a leader of the state for 10 years, it is quite a blot).
The third faux pas driven by factors known only to himself is Nitish’s statement with regard to the serial blasts in Gandhi Maidan in Patna during Modi’s rally. Insisting that there was no lapse in the bandobast, he hinted that BJP itself may be behind the blasts. While the first part of the statement was what should’ve been cemented (especially after the blasts in Bodh Gaya), the second part diminished him.
Nitish Kumar’s anti-Modi stand has made him more known in the rest of the country but has created a situation where JDU will possibly ally with the Congress in a display of political spinelessness.
By Sujata Garimella