Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's moniker of "Sushasan Babu" (Mr Good Governance) was endorsed on Monday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- a former political rival who ahead of the 2015 state elections, had repeatedly referred to the state as "goonda raj" (the lawless land).
In a video address at a programme to lay the foundation of nine highway projects in Bihar yesterday, PM Modi said, "In the next 1,000 days, six lakh villages will be connected by optical fibre and I hope in Nitishji will continue his sushasan (good governance) with firm resolve in developing Bihar".
The Prime Minister's stamp of approval has brought smiles to the faces of the leaders of Mr Kumar's Janata Dal United, who have been smarting under criticism of ally Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party.
In the days following the coronavirus outbreak in the country, leaders of the LJP and a section within the BJP had criticised the Chief Minister's handling of the situation -- especially regarding the return of the migrant labourers and the students studying in other states.
Mr Kumar's reputation as "Sushasan Babu" had taken a beating over the issue, they had insisted. The argument was also used to push for a new face for the NDA in the state ahead of the elections.
But the bid was dropped as Amit Shah confirmed Mr Kumar in the role and PM Modi had made it clear in his very first election-related address that Mr Kumar is a unanimous choice.
"Bihar was behind in terms of development for many years -- politics, cash crunch were some of the reasons," PM Modi had said earlier this month. "There was a time when road connectivity, internet connectivity were not discussed. Being a landlocked state, Bihar faced many challenges... Nitish Kumar has played a big role in our aim towards a New India, New Bihar," he had added.
His remarks have held out hope that the JDU will get the Big Brother treatment when it comes to seat sharing in the coming elections, party insiders said.
Mr Kumar had carried out his point of a 50:50 seat share in last year's Lok Sabha elections. But after that, he had distanced himself from the BJP when Mr Shah had refused to allot more than one ministerial berth to the JDU at the centre.
Mr Kumar, who had argued for a bigger share in view of his party's performance in the election, had been miffed and refused to join the government.
In the run-up to the state elections, the BJP, however, had not crossed the line with the five-time Chief Minister, who broke up with the party in 2013 when Mr Modi was announced the NDA's Prime Ministerial candidate. Thereafter, he went on to win the state election in alliance with Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress.
Mr Kumar, had, however, ended that Grand Alliance in July 2017 and joined hands with the BJP again.