The Bihar Post

JD-U change of guard: Party in celebration mode but challenges too many for Nitish Kumar

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PATNA: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was accorded a grand welcome when he landed in Patna late Sunday evening shortly after taking over as the new president of the Janata Dal United (JD-U).

Jubilant supporters, workers and leaders danced at the Patna airport, scrambled to garland him and shouted slogans like “Desh ka PM kaisa ho, Nitish Kumar jaisa ho”, amply indicating the kind of role plan the JD-U has for its new president.

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“I am overwhelmed by the kind of welcomes accorded by party workers,” exclaimed Kumar.

Kumar is the eighth such leader holding the post of both the Chief Minister and party president. The other leaders being Mamata Banejee (CM of West Bengal and head of Trinamool Congress), Navin Patnaik (CM of Odissa and head of Biju Janata Dal), J Jayalalitha (CM of Tamil Nadu and head of AIDMK), Mehbooba Mufti (CM of J&K and head of PDP), Prakash Singh Badal (CM of Punjab and head of Akali Dal), Arvind Kejriwal (CM of Delhi and head of AAP) and Akhiheh Yadav (CM of UP and state head of SP).

However, the challengers are many for Kumar now. The immediate challenge before him is to ensure the merger of regional parties such as Rashtriya Lok  Dal, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and Samajwadi Janata Dal with the JD-U ahead of UP assembly polls scheduled early next year. Reports are that the RLD is seeking a “pound of flesh” in lieu of its merger with the JD-U even as BJP is also trying hard to lure the RLD by offering more seats.

Observers say RLD chief Chaudhary Ajit Singh is the kind of politician who can’t be trusted quite like Ram Vilas Paswan of the LJP. It is learnt that both Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary want significant positions in the new party.

Another challenge for Kumar is to enroll five million active new members under JD-U’s new plan. The membership drive is scheduled to be launched from June 5. But Kumar has to see the drive does not meet the fate of the BJP which too claimed to have made eight million members in Bihar ahead of polls but lost the elections badly.

Earlier in a curious twist to Bihar politics, chief minister Nitish Kumar was on Sunday elected the president of the Janata Dal United (JD-U) at a meeting of the party’s national executive held in New Delhi.

Reports said his name was proposed by outgoing president Sharad Yadav which was unanimously accepted by the national executive.

“Humbled by party’s trust in me. Will try my best to carry Sharad Yadav’s legacy forward as I accept the new role as the president of JD-U,” Kumar tweeted.

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The change at the top in the organization which came after a decade was followed by outbursts of emotions. Reports said both Yadav and party national general secretary KC Tyagi turned quite emotional on this occasion and literally sobbed.

That Kumar will be heading the organization had become imminent shortly after Yadav stepped down from the post last week saying he didn’t want to continue on this post further and a galaxy of state leaders went on batting for Kumar as the next president.

Yadav claimed he would be active in politics as earlier. “Mian pahale ki tarah rajniti karata rahunga,” he told the media on Sunday.

Sharad had first become the president of the JD-U in 2006, succeeding Geroge Fernades who was once Kumar’s mentor, and held the post thrice. Soon after his ouster, Fernandes vanished from the scene.

JD-U insiders, however, say Yadav’s exist may not be as “ignominious” as Fernandes’. For more information, please keep watching this space.

The party hailed the change of guard at the top saying Kumar deserved that post. “He (Kumar) is best suited for the job. He has served in various capacities, such as, an MP, minister and the chief minister. His long experience in politics will now hugely benefit the country,” remarked JD-U spokespersons Rajiv Ranjan adding the party under Kumar would provide the strong alternative to the nation.

Another leader Maheshwar Hazari termed Kumar as a “visionary” who brought Bihar forward despite no industry and fighting against all odds. “In the same way, he will carry the nation forward through his ideas…he is the answer to the ‘divisive politics’ of Narendra Modi,” he added.

The BJP reacted bitterly to the development saying Kumar has a very old habit of throwing out his trusted friends. “He (Nitish Kumar) has the old habit of treating his loyalists that way. Earlier he unceremoniously removed George Fernandes from the post and now he is kicking out Sharad Yadav in a similar fashion,” senior BJP leader Sushil Modi commented.

Another senior BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav alleged Kumar believed in the policy of “Use and throw” applying which he had now pushed Yadav out. “Now, only one person will call the shots in the JD-U,” he added.

Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, whose Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) is an ally of the BJP, congratulated Kumar on his being elected as the JD-U chief but asked him not to ignore Bihar.

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