Nitish Kumar

Last Updated on July 20, 2021

Nitish Kumar (born 1 March 1951) is an Indian politician, who is serving as the 22nd Chief Minister of Bihar, a state in India, since 2015 and has served in that role on five previous occasions. He has also served as an Union minister in the Union Government of India.

Kumar is a member of the Janata Dal (United) political party. As the chief minister, he appointed more than 100,000 school teachers, ensured that doctors worked in primary health centres, electrified many villages, paved roads, cut female illiteracy by half, turned around a lawless state by cracking down on criminals and doubled the income of the average Bihari.The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi & Minister for consumer affairs, Ram Vilas Paswan visiting the Bihar Museum, in Patna, built during 6th tenure of Nitish Kumar.

On 17 May 2014, Kumar resigned, taking responsibility for his party’s poor performance in the 2014 general elections, and was succeeded by Jitan Ram Manjhi. However, he returned to office in February 2015 following a political crisis in Bihar and won the state elections of November 2015. He was elected as the national president of his party on 10 April 2016. He resigned again on 26 July 2017 as Chief Minister of Bihar due to differences with the coalition partner, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), following the naming of Tejashwi Yadav, the Deputy Chief Minister and RJD member, in a First Information Report alleging corruption filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Hours later, He joined the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition, which had thus far been the opposition, and secured a majority in the assembly. He became chief minister again on the following day. The Bihar government under Kumar banned alcohol in the state in April 2016.

Nitish Kumar: Did you know, seven times CM had to resign in 7 days
22nd Chief Minister of Bihar
Incumbent
Assumed office
22 February 2015
GovernorKeshari Nath TripathiRam Nath KovindSatya Pal MalikLalji TandonPhagu Chauhan
DeputyTejashwi Yadav (2015–2017)Sushil Kumar Modi (2017–2020)Renu Devi (2020–present)Tarkishore Prasad (2020-present)
Preceded byJitan Ram Manjhi
In office
24 November 2005 – 17 May 2014
GovernorButa Singh
Gopalkrishna Gandhi
R. S. Gavai
R. L. Bhatia
Devanand Konwar
D. Y. Patil
DeputySushil Kumar Modi (2005-2013)
Preceded byPresident’s rule
Succeeded byJitan Ram Manjhi
In office
3 March 2000 – 10 March 2000
GovernorV. C. Pande
Preceded byRabri Devi
Succeeded byRabri Devi
Union Minister of Railways
In office
20 March 2001 – 21 May 2004
Prime MinisterAtal Bihari Vajpayee
Preceded byMamata Banerjee
Succeeded byLalu Prasad Yadav

Early life

Kumar was born on 1 March 1951 in Bakhtiarpur, Bihar. His father, Kaviraj Ram Lakhan Singh, was an ayurvedic practitioner; his mother was Parmeshwari Devi. Nitish belongs to Kurmi agricultural caste.

He has earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Bihar College of Engineering (now NIT Patna) in 1972. He joined the Bihar State Electricity Board, half-heartedly, and later moved into politics. He married Manju Kumari Sinha (1955-2007) on 22 February 1973 and the couple has one son. Manju Sinha died in New Delhi on 14 May 2007 due to pneumonia.

Early political career

Kumar belongs to a socialist class of politicians. During his early years as a politician he was associated with the likes of Jayaprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia, S. N. Sinha, Karpuri Thakur and V. P. Singh. Kumar participated in Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement between 1974 and 1977and joined the Janata party headed by Satyendra Narain Sinha. Kumar fought and first time won his election to the state assembly from Harnaut in 1985. In initial years, Lalu Prasad Yadav was backed by Kumar as leader of the opposition in Bihar Assembly in year 1989 but Kumar later switched his loyalty to BJP in 1996, after winning his first Lok Sabha seat from Barh.

The Janata Dal had survived the splits in past when leaders like Kumar and George Fernandes defected to form the Samata Party in 1994, but it remained a baseless party after the decision of Yadav to form Rashtriya Janata Dal in 1997. The second split took place prior to the Rabri Devi assuming power which resulted in Janata Dal having only two leader of any consequence in it, namely Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan. Paswan was regarded as the rising leader of Dalits and had the credit of winning his elections with unprecedented margins. His popularity reached to the national level when he was awarded the post of Minister of Railways in the United Front government in 1996 and was subsequently made the leader of Lok Sabha. His outreach was witnessed in the western Uttar Pradesh too, when his followers organised an impressive rally at the behest of a newly floated organisation called Dalit Panthers. Sharad Yadav was also a veteran socialist leader but without any massive support base. In 1998 Parliamentary elections, Samata Party and Janata Dal, which was in a much weaker position after formation of RJD ended up eating each other’s vote base. This made Kumar merge both the parties to form Janata Dal (United).

In 1999, Lok Sabha elections Rashtriya Janata Dal received a setback at the hand of BJP+JD(U) combine. The new coalition emerged leading in 199 out of 324 assembly constituency and it was widely believed that in the forthcoming election to Bihar state assembly elections, the Lalu-Rabri rule will come to an end. The RJD had fought the election in an alliance with the Congress but the coalition didn’t work making state leadership of Congress believe that the maligned image of Lalu Prasad after his name was drawn in the Fodder Scam had eroded his support base. Consequently, the Congress decided to fight the 2000 assembly elections alone. The RJD had to be satiated with the communist parties as the coalition partners but the seat sharing conundrum in the camp of National Democratic Alliance made Kumar pull his Samta Party out of the Sharad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan faction of the Janata Dal. Differences also arose between the BJP and Kumar as the later wanted to be projected as the Chief Minister of Bihar but the former was not in favour. Even Paswan also wanted to be a CM face. The Muslims and OBCs were too divided in their opinion. A section of Muslims, which included the poor communities like Pasmanda were of the view that Lalu only strengthened upper Muslims like Shaikh, Sayyid and Pathans and they were in search of new options.

Yadav also alienated other dominant backward castes like Koeri and Kurmi since his projection as the saviour of Muslims. It is argued by Sanjay Kumar that the belief that, “the dominant OBCs like the twin caste of Koeri-Kurmi will ask for share in power if he (Yadav) seeks their support while the Muslims will remain satisfied with the protection during communal riots only” made Yadav neglect them. Moreover, the divisions in both the camps made the political atmosphere in the state a charged one in which many parties were fighting against each other with no visible frontiers. JD(U) and BJP were fighting against each other on some of the seats and so was the Samta Party. The result was a setback for the BJP, which in media campaigns was emerging with massive victory. RJD emerged as the single largest party and with the political maneuvere of Lalu Yadav, Rabri Devi was sworn in as the Chief Minister again. The media largely failed to gauge the ground level polarisation in Bihar. According to Sanjay Kumar:

there can be no doubt about one thing that the upper-caste media was always anti Lalu and it was either not aware of the ground level polarisation in the Bihar, or deliberately ignored it. If the election result did not appear as a setback for RJD, it was largely because of the bleak picture painted by the media. Against this background, RJD’s defeat had appeared like a victory.

Even after serving imprisonment in connection with the 1997 scam, Lalu seemed to relish his role as lower-caste jester. He argued that corruption charges against him and his family were the conspiracy of the upper-caste bureaucracy and media elites threatened by the rise of peasant cultivator castes. In 2004, Lalu’s RJD had outperformed other state based parties by winning 26 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. He was awarded with the post of Union Railway minister but the rising aspirations of the extremely backward castes unleashed by him resulted in JD(U) and BJP led coalition to defeat his party in 2005 Bihar Assembly elections

Union Minister

Union Minister for Railways Shri Nitish Kumar entering Parliament to present Interim Railway Budget (2004-05) in New Delhi on January 30, 2004

Nitish was briefly, the Union Minister for Railways and Minister for Surface Transport and later, the Minister for Agriculture in 1998–99, in the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In August 1999, he resigned following the Gaisal train disaster, for which he took responsibility as a minister.[5] However, in his short stint as Railway Minister, he brought in widespread reforms, such as internet ticket booking facility in 2002, opening a record number of railway ticket booking counters and introducing the tatkal scheme for instant booking.

Later that year, he rejoined the Union Cabinet as Minister for Agriculture. From 2001 to May 2004, he was – again – the Union Minister for Railways. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, he contested elections from two places, when he was elected from Nalanda but lost from his traditional constituency, Barh.

Chief Minister of Bihar

Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav discussing with the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh about the relief operations on flood-affected areas, in Bihar, August 28, 2008.

First term (2000–2000)

In March 2000, Nitish was elected Chief Minister of Bihar for the first time at the behest of the Vajpayee Government in the center. NDA and allies had 151 MLAs whereas Lalu Prasad Yadav had 159 MLAs in the 324 member house. Both alliances were less than the majority mark that is 163. Nitish resigned before he could prove his numbers in the house.

Second term (2005–2010)

After victory in 2005 Bihar Assembly elections, Kumar a leader of OBC Kurmi caste was sworn in as the chief minister. During Lalu’s time backward caste candidates came to dominate Bihar assembly claiming half of the seats in it and it was the aspiration of this powerful social community which led to fricton among the united backwards, leading to the rise of Kumar who made both social justice and development as his political theme.

Third term (2010–2014)

Kumar’s government also initiated bicycle and meal programs. Giving bicycles to girls who stayed in school resulted in the state getting a huge number of girls into schools and a reduction in school dropout rates

In 2010, Kumar’s party swept back to power along with its then allies, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and he again became Chief Minister. The alliance won 206 seats, while the RJD won 22 For the first time, electorates witnessed high turnout of women and young voters, while this was declared as the fairest election in Bihar, with no bloodshed or poll violence.

Resignation

On 17 May 2014, Kumar submitted his resignation to the Governor of Bihar, a day after his party fared poorly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, winning just 2 seats against 20 seats in the previous election. Kumar resigned, taking the moral responsibility of his party’s poor performance in the election, and Jitan Ram Manjhi took over.

Fourth term (2015 – 2020)

Kumar again became Chief Minister on 22 February 2015, on the backdrop of upcoming 2015 Bihar Legislative Assembly election, considered to be his toughest election to date. His JD(U), along with RJD and Congress, formed the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) to counter the BJP in Bihar

Kumar campaigned aggressively during the elections for the Grand Alliance, countering the allegations raised by Narendra Modi and the BJP. The Grand Alliance won the Assembly election by a margin of 178 over the BJP and its allies, with RJD emerging as the largest party with 80 seats and JD(U) placed second with 71. Kumar was sworn in as Chief Minister on 20 November 2015 for a record fifth time and Tejashwi Yadav became Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar.

Kumar’s campaign was managed by the Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) who were hired to managed the campaign for JD(U). I-PAC designed the campaign strategy which included reaching out to a larger set of voters through innovative campaigns, including sending hundreds of branded cycles for outreach, Har Ghar Dastak (door-to-door outreach) and the DNA campaign.

Mahagathbandhan breakup

When corruption charges were leveled against Tejashwi Yadav, the Deputy Chief Minister, Kumar asked for him to resign from the cabinet. The Rashtriya Janata Dal refused to do so, and therefore Kumar resigned on 26 July 2017, thus ending the Grand Alliance. He joined the principal opposition, the NDA, and came back to power within a few hours

Fifth term (2020– )

Capitalising on his 15 years consecutive terms as Chief Minister, Kumar highlighted various achievements and developments and listed various schemes carried out by his government and finally managed to get over a tightly contested election. NDA managed to get majority in Legislature Assembly by winning 125 seats as compared to Mahagathbandhan’s 110 seats. He was sworn in as Bihar Chief Minister for seventh time in 20 years in the presence of top leaders of NDA.

Biographies

Nitish Kumar with Kerala Governor Nikhil Kumar and Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav.

  • Sankarshan Thakur authored a book based on his life titled Single Man: The Life and Times of Nitish Kumar of Bihar.
  • Arun Sinha has authored a book titled Nitish Kumar and The Rise of Bihar.

Awards and recognition

  • Anuvrat Puraskar, by Shwetambar Terapanthi Mahasabha (Jain organisation), for enforcing total prohibition on liquor in Bihar, 2017
  • JP Memorial Award, Nagpur’s Manav Mandir, 2013
  • Ranked 77th in Foreign Policy Magazine‘ top 100 global thinkers 2012
  • XLRI, Jamshedpur Sir Jehangir Ghandy Medal for Industrial & Social Peace 2011
  • “MSN Indian of the Year 2010”
  • NDTV Indian of the Year – Politics, 2010
  • Forbes‘ “India’s Person of the Year”, 2010
  • CNN-IBN “Indian of the Year Award” – Politics, 2010
  • NDTV Indian of the Year – Politics, 2009
  • Economics Times “Business Reformer of the Year 2009”
  • Polio Eradication Championship Award 2009, by Rotary International
  • CNN-IBN Great Indian of the Year – Politics, 2008
  • The Best Chief Minister, according to the CNN-IBN and Hindustan Times State of the Nation Poll 2007

Positions held

PeriodPositionsNote
1977Contested first assembly elections on a Janata Party ticket from Harnaut but lost
1980Contested from Harnaut again, this time on Janata Party (Secular) ticket. But he lost again.
1985–89Member, Bihar Legislative Assembly, from HarnautFirst term in Legislative Assembly
1986–87Member, Committee on Petitions, Bihar Legislative Assembly
1987–88President, Yuva Lok Dal, Bihar
1987–89Member, Committee on Public Undertakings, Bihar Legislative Assembly.
1989Secretary-General, Janata Dal, Bihar
1989Elected to 9th Lok Sabha from BarhFirst term in Lok Sabha
1989 – 16 July 1990Member, House CommitteeResigned
April 1990–November 1990Union Minister of State, Agriculture and Co-operation
1991Re-elected to 10th Lok Sabha2nd term in Lok Sabha
1991–93General-Secretary, Janata Dal.
Deputy Leader of Janata Dal in Parliament
17 December 1991 – 10 May 1996Member, Railway Convention Committee
8 April 1993 – 10 May 1996Chairman, Committee on Agriculture
1996Re-elected to 11th Lok Sabha.
Member, Committee on Estimates.
Member, General Purposes Committee.
Member, Joint Committee on the Constitution (Eighty-first Amendment Bill, 1996)
Third term in Lok Sabha
1996–98Member, Committee on Defence
1998Re-elected to 12th Lok Sabha4th term in Lok Sabha
19 March 1998 – 5 August 1999Union Cabinet Minister, Railways
14 April 1998 – 5 August 1999Union Cabinet Minister, Surface Transport (additional charge)
1999Re-elected to 13th Lok Sabha5th term in Lok Sabha
13 October 1999 – 22 November 1999Union Cabinet Minister, Surface Transport
22 November 1999 – 3 March 2000Union Cabinet Minister, Agriculture
3 March 2000 – 10 March 2000Chief Minister, Biharas 29th Chief Minister of Bihar, only for 7 days
27 May 2000 – 20 March 2001Union Cabinet Minister, Agriculture
20 March 2001 – 21 July 2001Union Cabinet Minister, Agriculture, with an additional charge of Railways
22 July 2001 – 21 May 2004Union Cabinet Minister, Railways
2004Re-elected to 14th Lok Sabha, from Nalanda.
Member, Committee on Coal & Steel.
Member, General Purposes Committee.
Member, Committee of Privileges.
Leader Janata Dal (U) Parliamentary Party, Lok Sabha
6th term in Lok Sabha
24 November 2005 – 24 November 2010Chief Minister, Biharas 31st Chief Minister of Bihar
2006Elected to Bihar Vidhan Parishad (Legislative Council)
26 November 2010 – 17 May 2014Chief Minister, Biharas 32nd Chief Minister of Bihar
22 February 2015 – 19 November 2015Chief Minister, Biharas 34th Chief Minister of Bihar
20 November 2015 – 26 July 2017Chief Minister, Biharas 35th Chief Minister of Bihar
27 July 2017 –Chief Minister, Biharas 36th Chief Minister of Bihar
2018Elected to Bihar Vidhan Parishad, third term
November 2020Chief Minister, Biharas 37th Chief Minister of Bihar
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