Nitish Kumar – Changing the Face of Bihar

Nitish Kumar was born in Bakhtiarpur, Patna on  March 1, 1951. His father was a freedom fighter and intimate with  Narayan Sinha, one of the founders of modern Bihar. Graduated in electrical engineering from National Institute of Technology, Patna, his involvement in Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement during 1974-77 and his close proximity to Janata Party member S.N.Sinha gave him impetus to start his stint in politics.

In the early part of political career, he was elected to the Bihar Legislative Assembly as an independent contender, became the President of the Yuva Lok Dal in 1987, the General Secretary of the Janata Dal in Bihar in 1989 and at the national level in 1991. His success as the Union Cabinet Minister for Railways in 1998-99 and 2001-04 was commendable. His widespread reforms like the introduction of online ticket booking services and tatkal scheme for instant booking, setting up of a record number of ticket-booking counters, improvement in railway lines and implementing policies brought a revolution in effectively transforming the insolvent Indian Railways into a revenue-generating department. He also served as the Union Minister of Agriculture and Surface Transport in his career.

He has been the 29th, 31st and 32nd Chief Minister of Bihar with his party Janata Dal (United) i.e. JDU’s support, achieving what most politicians and ministers have failed to attain. His tenure has witnessed a series of initiatives in infrastructural and other developmental activities in addition to the completion of unfinished projects including the construction of roads and bridges, appointment of over one lakh schoolteachers, ensuring doctors’ availability at primary health care units and controlling crime rate in the state.

His first term in March 2000 was short-lived due to failure to establish a majority. In November 2005, he was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Bihar on behalf of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and consecutively for the second term in November 2010 leading the JDU-BJP alliance. Under his administration, the E-Shakti NREGS program was launched through which employment information was at rural people’s disposal. An electronic edition of the Right to Information Act was developed. Criminal prosecutions in fast track courts, generation of employment in police and teaching, augment in the rate of construction work and loan assistance to farmers all attained a new high. Obligatory weekly meetings with all District Magistrates ensured regulation of the progress at the primary level. Second highest increment in GSDP growth and highest tax payer state in eastern region of India were observed during his term.
One of the most popular programs launched by his government was Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojana that facilitated in increase in girl population at schools. This program of gifting bicycles was extended to boys soon after to improve the overall attendance at schools. In addition, 50% seats reservations in the electoral for women and backward castes were well acknowledged as evident from the 2010’s nonviolent polls, where it recorded a 10% increase in women at polling booths and a comprehensive win for the NDA acquiring 206 seats, with the opposition party Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) managing a meagre 22 seats rendering them ineligible to represent as the opposition in the state assembly.

His simplicity, undefiled and statesman image has earned him approbation from his allies and opponents alike. His pro-citizen progress oriented governance has transformed the face of the state, which was a haven of extortion, corruption, crime, unremitting poverty and caste barriers that further hindered state’s growth and development. The state’s economy grew an average 11.35% yearly during his second term in comparison to a dismal 3.5% in the previous five that placed Bihar at the bottom of every development index until Nitish Kumar took control. Even with the various reforms he has introduced against corruption, he can face a quandary if the economic opportunities do not expand outside of the government in harmony to the laws against graft leading to volatility in the law and order condition.

He is all set to introduce the Right to Service Bill that proposes the state officials to provide public services within a stipulated timeframe otherwise face penalties. Quick services like 7 days police verification of passports, 4 hours electricity fault repair in urban areas and others to achieve the objectives of the proposed State Public Service Delivery Commission.

The development and improvement in healthcare, education, infrastructure, governance and criminal justice system proved to be good politics for him. His astute sense of politics in partnering with the BJP and yet not allowing any campaigning from their alliance party members or their interference in the governance assisted him in gaining confidence of the Muslims and other lower castes. Even though RJD stalwart Lalu Prasad Yadav and he have championed the cause of backward castes’ empowerment, Nitish Kumar’s method is through propagation of learning and education.

Radhika Saraf