Chanakya of Bihar politics

New Delhi, Nov 22 | Updated: Nov 23 2005, 05:30am hrs
Nitish Kumar has finally made it. After having been labelled as NDAs perennial chief-minister-in-waiting, after his brief tryst of seven days with chief ministership in 2000, Kumar has emerged as numero uno of Bihar politics.

Patience finally paid for the 54-year-old Kumar, who has shown that his success was not just a flash in the pan as he led the NDA to a convincing win in the politically volatile state, to end the 15-year reign of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad.

The victory is all the more sweet for the trained engineer from Bihar College of Engineering as it came five years after a brief stint in the top seat in March 2000.

The then NDA-appointed governor had sworn in Kumar despite his lacking majority and was forced to bow out without facing a trial of strength in the Assembly in the face of a certain defeat. Referred to as the Chanakya of Bihar politics, Kumar has now come to don the mantle of Chandragupta, the king of ancient Magadh who ended the reign of the Nandas.

Incidentally, Kumar also hails from backward classes like Lalu Prasad, who have come to call the shots in the state politics in the post-Mandal phase.

Blending his secular ideology with pragmatic politics, Kumar, known for his no-nonsense attitude, was condemned to live in the shadow of a charismatic and exuberant RJD boss Lalu Prasad for several years.

His hawkish views on job reservations for the OBCs and Dalit Muslims notwithstanding, the wily craftsman of modern politics did the delicate balancing act to keep the votaries of both Mandal and mandir happy.

The former railway minister in Vajpayee government, Kumar is a known fighter and is not the one to take things lightly. He had openly dared the RJD supremo for a debate in Patna Gandhi Maidan when the latter accused him of doing precious little during his tenure as railway minister except making announcements. A socialist and Lohiaite by conviction, Kumar was drawn to politics during his college days and was a key leader of 1974 students movement under Jayaprakash Narain which culminated in the fall of the Indira Gandhi regime and installation of the first non-Congress government in Delhi in 1977.

Kumar got a Janata Party ticket to contest the Assembly election from Harnaut in his native Nalanda district but lost despite an anti-Congress wave sweeping almost entire North India.

Lady luck refused to smile on him again in 1980. Though his contemporaries like Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan tasted electoral victory getting elected to Lok Sabha in 1977, success came slow for Nitish Kumar. His legislative career began in 1985 when he got elected to the Assembly from Harnaut after two failed attempts.