Profile: Nitish spurned govt job for politics; deputies rose through the ranks

An engineer, Nitish had taken an active part in the JP movement; his deputies Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi have risen through the ranks of the BJP

Bihar's new deputy chief ministers Renu Devi and Tarkishore Prasad. Photo: Twitter/Dr. Sanjay Jaiswal

Nitish Kumar was on Monday (November 16) sworn in as the chief minister of Bihar for the seventh time in 20 years, and this is the fourth straight term for the 69-year-old Janata Dal (United) leader.

An engineer who had taken an active part in the JP movement, Nitish spurned a job offer from the state electricity department and decided to take the political gamble, an oddity among educated youth in Bihar for whom the lure of “sarkaari naukri” remains undiminished.

He got the first taste of victory after three successive defeats in the 1985 Assembly polls when he won from Harnaut as a candidate of the Lok Dal. Four years later he entered the Lok Sabha from Barh.

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Nitish was first sworn in as the chief minister in 2000, for a term that lasted barely a week as he failed to muster a majority and returned as a minister at the Centre in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Five years later, he returned with the JD(U)-BJP alliance winning a majority and upon completion of his tenure returned in 2010 when the coalition won a landslide victory in the assembly polls.

He stepped down in May, 2014, owning moral responsibility for the party’s debacle in Lok Sabha polls, only to return in February, 2015. In November, 2015, the Assembly polls were fought and won by the Grand Alliance, which then comprised the JD(U), Lalu Prasad’s RJD and the Congress with Nitish back as the chief minister.

He, however, abruptly exited the alliance in July 2017, citing irreconcilable differences with the RJD and resigned as chief minister only to return in less than 24 hours armed with the support of the BJP.

Two deputy chief ministers

Nitish will have two deputy chief ministers in Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi. Both are from the BJP. Sushil Kumar Modi was the deputy chief minister in the previous Assembly.

Prasad hails from the Kalwar caste, a part of the Vaishya community categorised as a backward class. Prasad won from the Karihar Assembly segment for the fourth straight term.

The 52-year-old BJP leader has risen from the ranks of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), an affiliate of the RSS. Prasad, who has been winning the Katihar seat since October 2005, passed Intermediate (10+2) science from DS College, Katihar, in 1974. He has shown agriculture as his profession in the affidavit submitted for the elections.

“I came to know about my selection only in the legislature party meeting. Whatever work is given to me by the party I will try to perform it sincerely,” Prasad told reporters on Sunday (November 15) after being chosen as the BJP legislature party leader in Bihar.

Devi, 61, is from the Noniya caste, which is an extremely backward class community. She has been elected four times (2000, 2005, 2010, 2020) from Bettiah to the Bihar Legislative Assembly and was a minister in the state in the second NDA governmnet in 2010 headed by Nitish. She was sports and culture minister. She is a national vice-president of the BJP. On Sunday, she was chosen as the BJP’s deputy legislature party leader.

Devi began her political journey in 1981 while she was associated with an NGO and officially joined the BJP in 1988 as a part of the women’s wing, according to Aaj Tak.

Devi was picked as the BJP’s head of women’s wing for the Champaran region in 1989, and, four years later, she was appointed as the head of the state’s ‘Mahila Morcha’, a post she was reappointed to in 1996. She was appointed as the vice-president of the party in 2014.

Santosh Suman Manjhi will represent the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) in the NDA government. The elder son of former Bihar chief minister and HAM chief Jitan Ram Manjhi, Santosh, 40, did not contest the Bihar Assembly elections and has been chosen to the Cabinet from the Legislative Council.

He was elected as a MLC in 2018, barely a month after his father jumped ship from NDA to the RJD-led Grand Alliance. Currently the party’s general secretary, Santosh has a doctorate in political science (2003) and has worked as a lecturer before making a leap into politics.

Always working behind the scenes, he was formally introduced as the heir apparent by his father at a rally in their home state Gaya in 2015. Before that, Santosh was a block-level activist of the BJP in Makhdumpur block of Jahanabad district and had faced defeat as a candidate from Gaya in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Interestingly, he was originally named Santosh Suman by his father who did not want a Dalit tag to his son’s name. Santosh eventually reclaimed the surname when he made his foray into politics.

The Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), another ally of the NDA, will be represented by Mukesh Sahani. A stage designer for films such as Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Devdas, Sahani also goes by the moniker ‘Son of Mallah’ for his philanthropic work for the fishermen community.

Actively involved in social and philanthropic work in Bihar through his NGO Sahani Samaj Kalyan Sanstha, Sahani campaigned for the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He, however, severed ties with the party when the Modi government did not deliver on its promise of bringing his community under the Schedule Caste category.

He went on to found the Nishad Vikas Sangh in 2015 to strengthen the community’s footing across the country. In 2018, he founded the Vikassheel Insaan Party, which in 2019 contested the general elections as an ally of the Mahagathbandhan. Even though the party failed to land any seats in the Lok Sabha elections, it bagged four in the Bihar Assembly elections.

(With inputs from PTI)

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