Book Review: Non-fiction/Biography, Nitish Kumar and the Rise of Bihar by Arun Sinha, Penguin/2011, 389 pp; Rs699 (Hardback)
The Bihar movement headed by Jay Prakash Narayan accomplished the rise of a new political generation that was based on socialistic ideals. Unfortunately, its immediate beneficiaries, notably Lalu Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan proved the complete antithesis of those hatched idealism by great socialists in 1970’s. Nitish Kumar, third important pillar of JP Movement remained the glimmering hope of blend, which constituted through the real politic and rational idealism. He parted the way with the bunch of cruel jokers pretending as people’s custodian in 1994; in the course of time, Lalu Yadav’s rustic antics kept deteriorating to the bawdy bottomline and Bihar started to known as the derivative point of whole mess on earth. When Nitish succeeded to dethrone the family rule of Lalu in 2005, he had sworn as the Chief Minister of almost a bankrupt state. In last six years, Bihar has significantly risen, and all its fundamentals are sound enough now with the quality improvements in governance, law&order, infrastructure etc. This biography of Nitish Kumar by Arun Sinha, a veteran journalist and close friend of him introspects well the politics of Bihar in last four decades and how lastly the turnaround took place in the land, was consistently in bad shape for long!
Nitish started his political career in 1969, when he was in his teenage as a member of the Socialist Youth Council, a student front of Lohia’s SSP. Nitish always had a thinking mind with him, much before it was recognised by the eminent social historian, Ramchandra Guha, who ahead seen in this politician, all the hope of Indian democracy. Son of a visionary Congress leader, Ram Lakhan Singh who was never treated fairly by the Congress high command, Nitish was always taken in his circle as super meritorious. Nitish was very good with academics, so he joined the prestigious Patna Science College and later Patna Engineering college for his further studies, here he emerged as a student leader during those troubled phase. Late 1960’s was not a comfortable time worldwide; there were upsurges of radicalism among the youths. In India, Bihar became the hub of resistance against the dynastic politics of Congress. Finally it was the Bihar movement of 1974, and with the affiliation to Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti leading to the JP movement during the emergency years, that lift Nitish to the state level. Arun Sinha was himself a part of that political activism, later he took the course of journalism and done remarkable works on Bihar and beyond. As Indian Express reporter, he was the man who led the real story of unfortunate police atrocities in Bhagalpur at national forefront; then the Congress government and its Chief Minister, Jagganath Mishra’s role were vindicated and they met to wrath of people in next election. This book is another best from his side on Bihar.
As an observer and close one of Nitish’ inner circle, he reveals in this book the details which reintroduces Nitish even more humble than people knows him reading before this biography. And, it’s not exaggeration in any manner. Leaving the second part of this book, which gives the material on technical knowhow of NDA government’s grand achievements under the aegis of Nitish Kumar’s leadership, the first part is totally new addition of super real facts on this prominent political scion of Bihar. In initial phases, the decent public composure of Nitish was prohibitive for him to stand to match with the unruly counterparts of socialist movements, like Lalu Yadav who tasted early success and hyped fame in political life. Unlike him, Nitish maintained the idealism of Jay Prakash Narayan, and fought many elections without the early success until in mid 1980’s, when he was elected to Bihar Legislative Assembly. In the meantime, he spent time in his constituency, reading avidly, ferrying on local buses/trains, skipping lunches by the dearth of money but always kept chasing the long term prospects in politics.
As he was a born leader, he never distracted by the initial failures though those around him were naturally concerned for his career. Even, Karpoori Thakur approached him to join engineering profession with citing uncertainties involved in political life, but his aim was clear and that was following its course very meticulously so he didn’t confided those suggestions. In 1980’s, he finally made entry into central politics as Loksabha member and later also as state minister in United Front government but his real journey begun as an alternative political force once he thought for delinking from the morally crumbling Janta Dal. He received huge response for his initiative but tactful weaknesses during the 1995 Bihar legislative election, his Samta party didn’t perform up to the mark. His high rise materialised with the blossoming fortune of NDA government at the centre, where he was given crucial portfolios to perform. Samta Party, which later turned as JD (u) shared the boat with BJP but only on its own principles, its finest replication is current NDA government in Bihar which runs through following immediate developmental goals instead relying on the trash non-issues, which are the cases in many other states ruled by BJP.
It’s also true; a great part of his success in Bihar became possible by the preservance and integrity of Sushil Modi. Who together carved out the new functional paradigms and ensured its flawless execution. Today, Modi is the Chairmen of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Minister’s, he took charge of this honour from Asim Dasgupta but unlike him, he never went to MIT for learning economics. He is only the science graduate from Patna University but he has shown by reviving the Bihar’s financial health that the over technicalities of economics can’t win the whole race. This book also flashes the hate/love relations between George Fernandeez and Nitish Kumar besides the figurehead role of Sharad Yadav, who made and later broke the Lalu Yadav’s political mileage in Bihar.
Nitish has always been aware of the inherent ills of power, so he consistently refrained himself from mingling with the complacency. That he exuded best after the land sliding verdict in 2009, when he made no exciting announcements except to humbly accept the election result as by the peoples of Bihar and for the peoples of Bihar. He knows, the journey is still far to be completed as the major challenges of investments and the revival of trade/entrepreneurship is still a big challenge, but he is doing well for meeting the desired goals, even his bitterest critic can’t deny that after visiting Bihar which is indeed passing through a revival time. This biography is of high importance, despite it’s written by a close friend, readers will never feel the wave of extraneous sympathy, whatever the words are endorsing are real and universally true about Nitish. As Ramkrishna Hegde, Ntish Kumar has no ambition for Prime Ministership, and that’s all good for his integrity and Bihar at large. By the reference, Arun Sinha will be known for this well researched work.
Atul Kumar Thakur