Arun Sinha’s testimonial-like tone while describing Nitish Kumar’s re-emergence in Bihar lends a blandness to an otherwise engaging book, says Tridip Suhrud
THERE ARE multiple ways in which this fascinating biography of Nitish Kumar by journalist and the Chief Minister’s friend Arun Sinha can be read. One, the most obvious reading as a political biography of one of contemporary India’s most consummate and promising politicians. Two, it could be read as a story of the demise of Bihar and the political fortunes of Lalu Prasad Yadav. Three, it could also be read as a story of the slow withering away of the Congress from the political and ideological life of Bihar society. And, four, it could, and should, be read as the demise of the transformative politics as conceived and idealised by Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohia in Bihar.
This biography makes a gripping tale because it is layered and provides various vantage points from which the story of Nitish Kumar has been told. Nitish’s story cannot be told without the story of the rise and fall of his one-time “bade bhaiyya (big brother)” Lalu Prasad. In this biography, Yadav and the politics of backward caste assertion is as much a subject as Nitish himself. And it is to the credit of the author that he has resisted the temptation of turning Lalu into a villain, who was eventually vanquished by his former junior associate. As a political narrative, the author provides a detailed account and analysis of the state of Bihar politics and administration under successive Congress governments in the 1970s and ’80s, setting the stage for the anti-Congress politics of the JP-led Bihar movement and its eventual triumph in the form of Lalu Prasad’s rule almost a decade-anda- half after the movement that challenged Indira Gandhi’s authoritarian supremacy over Indian politics.
The making of Nitish Kumar as a professional politician is chronicled with intricate details, his successive electoral failures, his inability and unwillingness even in the face of political and personal oblivion to be identified as solely a Kurmi leader, his commitment to the craft of politics and will to power through ‘realpolitik’ shows the enduring appeal of democratic politics as also its fragility. If the part that deals with the emergence of Nitish Kumar and his eventual rise to power is thick with descriptions, anecdotal asides and political and sociological analyses, the second part that deals with the re-emergence of Bihar under Nitish’s rule from decades of misrule and self-doubt is a bland narrative — almost testimonial- like in its tone. If the author is sensitive to each weakness of Nitish and of Lalu in the first part, he is almost forgiving of the former in the second part. Arun Sinha would like us to believe that all aberrations of Nitish’s politics and administration should be seen through the prism of the Bihar chief minister’s desire to rid the state of Lalu’s clutches. Perhaps, this is due not because of the author’s apparent fondness for Nitish but the promise of Bihar and its desire to emerge as a society that is prosperous and just, which Nitish Kumar embodies.