Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (Photo Credit: PTI)
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will give a pep talk to the rank and file of the JD(U), which he heads, at the massive conclave of party workers from across the state here on Sunday, sources said on Saturday. The 'Karyakarta Sammelan' at the Gandhi Maidan will be a virtual show of strength by the party before the assembly elections due later this year, a source said.
"We are looking forward to receiving inspiration from the chief minister. His addresses are always special. But this time, it is more so as it falls on his birthday," JD(U) spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan Prasad told PTI. Kumar, who is just a few months shy of becoming the longest-serving chief minister of Bihar, turns 69 on March 1.
"We cannot think of a better birthday gift than ensuring his return to power with a resounding majority. The party has set a target of securing more than 200 seats for the NDA out of the total 243. This includes putting up a spectacular performance ourselves and helping our alliance partners to win handsomely," Prasad added.
The NDA in Bihar comprises the JD(U), BJP and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the coalition had won 39 out of 40 seats in the state and established leads in more than 220 assembly segments. JD(U) had come into being in 2003 with the merger of three breakaway factions of the Janata Dal which was founded, but soon abandoned by former prime minister V P Singh.
Initially, it was headed by the late socialist leader George Fernandes, while Sharad Yadav, who was the president of one of the splinter groups who came together to form the new entity, headed the parliamentary board. However, it was Kumar—the master negotiator seen as the driving force—that caused the formerly squabbling factions to come together. He came to be acknowledged as JD(U)s de facto leader.
In the course of time, Fernandes faded into oblivion after an attempt at revolt instigated by Kumar’s detractors within the party. Yadav, who took over as the party chief, was shown the door a few years ago when he defied Kumar. Kumar’s stock rose further after becoming the chief minister of Bihar.
Over the last decade he has survived many setbacks. Frequent change of alliance partners have made detractors question his credibility, though his polar position in the state’s politics remains unquestioned. After his controversial decision to abruptly end the alliance with the Congress-RJD combine and return to the NDA fold, Kumar has been able to keep communal incidents like cow vigilantism and riots under check.
Though staying in the NDA coalition, he has refused to toe the BJP line on issues like the instant triple talaq and Article 370. However, JD(U)’s support to Citizenship (Amendment) Bill baffled many who charged Kumar with having capitulated before the domineering alliance partner.
Kumar’s astuteness was on display earlier this week when the state assembly with more than 50 BJP MLAs in tow, unanimously passed a resolution against NRC and sought NPR on the previous pattern without contentious clauses.
The deft move took the sting out of the opposition’s relentless campaign against CAA-NPR-NRC and much of the heat off the NDA in the state.