PATNA: A political see-saw was witnessed in Bihar this year with BJP sweeping Lok Sabha elections which led to resignation of Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister midway but he hit back by realigning with friend-turned-foe Lalu Prasad to counter the saffron juggernaut.
11 months after Nitish walked out of NDA opposing Narendra Modi, his ruling JD(U) suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of BJP winning only two seats out of 40. Nitish owned moral responsibility and quit the chief minister’s post on May 17.
After two-days of high voltage drama at JD(U) Legislature party meet during which MLAs initially refused to accept his resignation, Nitish sprang a surprise by handpicking dalit leader Jitan Ram Manjhi to succeed him on May 19.
Backed by Lalu’s RJD and Congress, Manjhi comfortably won trust vote on May 23 in the Assembly.
Bihar was also struck by tragedy on Dussehra this year when a stampede in Patna left 33 dead, mostly women and children, with a probe blaming “collective failure” of civic and police authorities. There were also a series of naxal attacks, derailment of Rajdhani Express near Chhapra and flood threat from Nepal during the year.
With his political career spanning over three-and-a-half decade, Manjhi (70) has served as minister in earlier regime of Congress as well RJD of Lalu Prasad. But, the journey was not smooth for the new CM as well the ruling party.
With a large number of party MLAs raising a banner of revolt after being left out in expansion of Manjhi cabinet, JD(U) which faced first real test in the by-election to two Rajya Sabha seats took a major decision to join hands with RJD.
They called each other “Bade Bhai” (Lalu Prasad) “Chote bhai” (Nitish Kumar) but Nitish faced criticism for joining hands with Lalu against whose party’s “jungle raj” he fought all along and became Chief Minister in November 2005.
Supported by RJD, Congress and CPI, two JD(U) official candidates Pavan Verma and Ghulam Rasool Balyawi were elected to Rajya Sabha from the state defeating real estate baron Anil Sharma and expelled JD(U) leader Shabir Ali, who were backed by BJP and over 20 rebel MLAs of Nitish Kumar party.
JD(U) President Sharad Yadav, who was defeated in the Lok Sabha election by RJD Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, had no problem entering Rajya Sabha at the same time as no candidate was fielded against him.
The coming together of JD(U) and RJD heralded a new chapter in Bihar politics. Facing common enemy in Narendra Mod-led BJP, JD(U), RJD and Congress formed a grand secular alliance in Bihar.
Defending the decision as need of the time, Kumar said strengthening of “mandal forces” was needed to defeat “kamandal” (BJP which had led movement for construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya).
The Lalu-Nitish reunion came as a “sanjeevni” for the secular forces which performed well in the bypoll to 10 Assembly seats in August.
RJD, JD(U) and Congress combine won 6 out of the 10 seats in the bypoll, which was seen as their triumph to halt Modi juggernaut in the state.
The success of “Bihar experiment” inspired splinters of old Janata Parivar to come together. Efforts fructified after two luncheon meeting of leaders of old Janata parivar at residence of Samajwadi party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav.
After breaking bread on December 4, six parties SP, RJD, JD(U), JD (S), INLD and Samajwadi Janata Party (SJP) authorised Mulayam Singh Yadav to facilitate the six becoming one party under him.
While Nitish succeeded in adding muscle by teaming up with Lalu Prasad to rein in Modi-led BJP in Bihar, he was facing difficulty in his own house.
A series of controversial statements from Manjhi starting from his “admission” in August about corruption when he himself had to pay Rs 5,000 to settle an old electricity bill put JD(U) and Nitish in an embarrassing situation.
After that there was no stopping Manjhi who implored dalits who constitute 22 per cent of the population to unite so that power rests with them and threatened to chop off hands of doctors who ignore the poor. He said seven Union ministers from the state would not be allowed entry if they failed to bring desired assistance for the region but later claimed he meant it as a “sweet joke”.
A befuddled Kumar skipped several functions where he had to share dais with Manjhi. The rapprochement came after JD(U) President Sharad Yadav, facing pressure from a section of party legislators and ministers to change Manjhi, reprimanded him. Manjhi went to Kumar’s home to iron out differences.
Manjhi later described Kumar as JD(U) “supreme” leader and expressed desire to see him on CM chair after 2015 poll.
After nearly two months, Manjhi shared dais with Kumar during “Samparak yatra” of Kumar at Jehanabad on November 25.
Expressing commitment to take forward the “roadmap” of development charted by Nitish, Manjhi presented the annual report card of JD(U) government on November 25 on completion of party’s ninth year in power.
But, an unimpressed BJP issued its own assessment report on JD(U) ministry with a cartoon showing Nitish Kumar falling on feet of Lalu Prasad and a smiling Manjhi happily seated on the throne. BJP described Manjhi ministry as return of “Jungle Raj II”.
The state saw new Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi taking charge November 27.
Nitish Kumar launched 16-day long “Samparak yatra” from November 13 considered as party preparation for Assembly poll later next year targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for what JD(U) called his “somersault” on his poll promises of bringing back black money and according special status to Bihar.
In all political meetings in 33 districts out of 38, Kumar played audio clip of Modi on black money and special status and paying special attention towards Bihar to drive home his point.
The state government also came under attack for the October 3 stampede near historic Gandhi maidan that left 33 dead and 29 others injured.
The government probe report conducted by Principal Secretary (Home) Amir Subhani and Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) Gupteshwar Pandey submitted to the government in November end pointed out rumours, attempt of molestation and eveteasing as reasons behind the incident while also blaming poor arrangements of security, light and traffic on the day.
Government had removed top brass of Patna district administration including Commissioner N Vijaylakshmi, DIG Ajitabh Kumar, District Magistrate Minish Verma and Senior Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj after the incident.
Derailment of Delhi-Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express close to Golden Ganj station near Chhapra on June 26 left four people dead and several others injured.
The derailment had triggered blame game between Railways and Bihar government.
Bihar faced danger of flood in Kosi belt along Indo-Nepal border due to landslide and threat of bursting of frozen Bhote lake in the Himalayan nation in early August. The event coincided with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal.
The state also saw inauguration of new Nalanda International University by External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on September 19.
A branch of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was opened at Kisanganj on January 30 by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.