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Jan 10, 2012

Arun Sinha's book Nitish Kumar and the Rise of Bihar traces the journey of the Indian state of Bihar through changing ideologies and governance to become one of the fastest developing states.

Nitish Kumar

Nitish Kumar and the Rise of Bihar

Author: Arun Sinha

Published by: Penguin Viking (2011)

Price: INR 699/-

For those in Bihar in late 1960s and early 1970s, reference to the JP movement and the way it witnessed the emergence of leaders (who later on came to occupy centre stage in Bihar’s polity) was a part of common parlance. In the public domain, it was established that the JP movement served as a cradle for the political career of Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Narendra Modi – though in ideologically distinct trajectories. The book titled Nitish Kumar and the Rise of Bihar by Arun Sinha helps in developing a fairly comprehensive understanding of the social and political changes that were taking place in Bihar from the early 1950s and the manner in which the coming of political and caste-based leaders defined the future course of politics and social fabric in the state. To that extent, the book addresses a major gap by locating the growth of a political leader within the larger social, economic and political map of Bihar. It also forcefully argues for a rightful place for the JP movement in the history of India.

The author duly recognises that being a close aide of Nitish Kumar may have posed limitations to an objective analysis of the latter’s persona and the rise of Bihar. Having said that, Arun Sinha has attempted to paint a fairly balanced picture of the growth of Bihar and the way Nitish Kumar’s career growth is embedded in the lager social and political matrix of the state.

Parts 1 and 2 of the book have been purported to be seen as two distinct parts, something like a point of ‘inflexion’.However, it would be more appropriate to see these two parts as a continuum, wherein Nitish could be located as the critical change agent.

While delving on the emergence of coalition politics in the late 1960s and 1970s in Bihar, the author neatly identifies the challenges of coalition politics and the way Congress as a national party learnt to decimate coalition politics. Further, tracing Nitish’s journey of repeated failures (chapter 5) through dedicated aptly titled preceding chapters on the ’political beginnings‘(chapter 3) and ’the grind‘(chapter 4), the author succinctly brings out two distinct aspects: first, the emergence and rise of Lalu Prasad Yadaav, and, secondly, Nitish’s objectivity in politics, even with his allies. When Lalu was riding the crest in wake of the Mandal Commission Report and Advani had initiated the rath yatra, Nitish had gone to the extent of saying that the rath yatra was nothing but a conspiracy to stonewall Mandal.

The distancing of Nistish from Lalu and the former’s covert and overt suggestions to the latter on the need for involving others in decision making  also help the reader to get a glimpse of Nitish’s enduring and persistent nature. These and many other such examples cited by the author, indicate that for Nitish, the “Hooke’s limit” (indication of elastic limit of a physical matter as taught in physics) really seems to be high, before rebellion (chapter 7) and the banner of revolt can be raised.

Interestingly, the short length of the chapter 8 on “building an alternative” compared to the preceding chapters, to me it seems that the author assumes that all readers would be able to feel by then that Nitish’s rise was imminent, after having gone through a long sea of turmoil and the “road to victory” was not far enough and therefore it probably did not merit detailed exposition.

The second part of the book on “Reinventing Bihar” deals with Nitish’s continued emphasis on development as a major rallying point, along with the need to ensure law and order in the state and institutionalising the adherence to administrative line of command within the bureaucracy, something that his predecessors had chosen to neglect to their advantage. In order to reinvent Bihar, the book time and again brings out Nitish’s belief and practice to ensure ‘good governance”, and how in the process of achieving small and big successes, he continues to strive for the Bihari asmita and identity. The book closes on a positive and emphatic note of compliment to Nitish in the “social transformation” that has been engineered in Bihar during the last seven years or so. However, the author also cautions that “… there is a long way before Bihar gains adequate strength and starts running. Taking a cue from law of motion, the inertia of rest has been overcome. However, on the contrary, it appears that the force required to sustain the development initiatives has to be definitely more and sustained.

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