Patna: After quitting as Bihar CM on May 17 this year in the wake of the crushing defeat suffered by JD(U) in the parliamentary poll, Nitish Kumar may seem to be just another member of the state legislative council. But make no mistake, as he continues to wield maximum clout in the party. His opponents call him the de-facto CM.
Nitish, who, as CM, used to be deeply involved in different facets of governance, is no longer concerned with day-to-day affairs of the state government. He is now mainly engaged in party affairs only. Last week, he declared at a party meeting, “I have resigned as CM. I have got nothing to do with the government.”
Still, he is the centre of attraction for ministers and legislators of all parties. Ministers can be seen meeting him in his chamber in Vidhan Parishad, touching his feet and even now feeling uncomfortable in sitting next to him. One day, state Congress president Ashok Choudhary and some Congress legislators were also present in his chamber along with JD(U) leaders. Nitish attends the council daily during question hour and after that returns to his chamber. He avoids talking politics in his chamber and prefers to have lighter moments, recalling his early days in politics and in different ministries in the Union cabinet.
That he was the most powerful leader in JD(U) was evident as even the party’s national president Sharad Yadav, who had lost in the LS polls from Madhepura, was not aware of his nomination to Rajya Sabha. The three candidates chosen by Nitish became members of Rajya Sabha. All the 12 members nominated to Vidhan Parishad last month were also his personal choice and Sharad did not even know the names of some of the nominees to Upper House.
If party spokesman Dr Ajay Alok is to be believed, officers do not meet Nitish. He said the former CM is busy meeting the party workers from districts. He has 20 to 40 appointments at his Strand Road residence daily. He had direct talks with all the district JD(U) presidents after the election to analyse the reasons for poll reverses, and was solely responsible for setting up the party’s new state executive committee. Alok said Nitish was now completely focused on party affairs.
State JD(U) president Bashistha Narain Singh said, “Nitish has lots of engagement daily. He meets the party workers daily at his residence. He has visited Delhi twice since he ceased to be CM. He is the most popular party leader.”
Though the former CM claims he is not meddling with government, he admitted the Jitan Ram Manjhi government was working on the agenda set by him. Ministers close to him admit the former CM gives them direction on good governance. The CM often goes and consults Nitish. Many senior officers also seek guidance from the former CM on official matters, admitted at least half-a-dozen ministers.
Senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi alleges that Nitish is running the government by remote control both in the state secretariat and in districts. He claims the opinion of former CM is treated like an order by civil servants even now.