10 Reasons Why Nitish Kumar Must Regret His Choice

Published: November 06, 2014 21:37 IST
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(Manish Kumar is Executive Editor, News at NDTV)

When Nitish Kumar resigned as Chief Minister of Bihar this year, he said he was accepting responsibility for his party's humiliating result in the national election. The 63-year-old's Janata Dal United or JDU won just two of the state's 40 parliamentary seats. Mr Kumar picked as his successor Jitan Ram Manjhi, 72, a decision he must kick himself for every day. Here are 10 reasons why:

1) Manjhi has premiered a rich assortment of controversial statements at public events, usually with cameras serving as helpful references for later. He has said he supports bribery, has endorsed corruption and black marketing and that his married son cannot be faulted for having a girlfriend - though the alleged companion turned out to be also married and an employee of the Bihar government.

2) Manjhi has a penchant for announcing elaborate schemes which do not have the consent of the cabinet. At one point, he promised every town that he visited a mini-version of the Patna High Court.

3) Politicians may like to keep their friends close and enemies closer; Manjhi likes to have his family closest. He made his son-in-law his Personal Assistant; lest he be accused of favouring one relative over another, several were made members of his staff at home and at the government secretariat.

4) Manjhi has exhibited great affection for those within the party who have turned against Nitish Kumar, blaming him for the decision to end an 18-year alliance with the BJP, which went on to sweep the national election. Dissidents were often found seated in the Chief Minister's office at the state legislature.

5) Nitish Kumar called off the partnership with the BJP over its decision to make Narendra Modi the heart of its campaign. When Manjhi visited the Prime Minister in Delhi in June, sources close to him say he was open in his criticism of his predecessor, allegedly describing him as "arrogant".

6) Manjhi allegedly also said that were it not for Mr Modi, he would never have made Chief Minister because Nitish Kumar's major miscalculation was based on Mr Modi's ascension within the BJP.

7) One of Manjhi's two sons is a member of the BJP. Manjhi has reportedly indicated to the BJP that his son would like to run for the state legislature when Bihar votes in about 11 months.

8) Manjhi also hosts large groups of BJP law-makers at his home where he reportedly explains that as a "Mahadalit" - a group consisting of the poorest among the Dalits - he is considering uniting all Dalit communities - and the future Chief Minister will emerge from this group. Nitish Kumar has always positioned himself as a champion of Mahadalits. 

9) Nitish Kumar was careful to be seen as a leader who did not use many of the perks assigned to his office. He rarely used his helicopter to visit his ancestral village, for example. Manjhi is trigger-happy to use his chopper even when he is not traveling for work.

10) Nitish Kumar's team was discerning about which events he would attend as Chief Minister so that he could expend energy and time on running the state. Manjhi, who has said that he is aware that his time in office could be limited, is readily available to inaugurate or preside over events.

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