Nityanand Rai emerges as BJP's strongest pick to replace Nitish Kumar in strategic power shift

Chandra Bindu
New Update
Nityanand Rai (File photo)

Patna (Bihar): Who will replace Nitish Kumar as the Chief Minister in Bihar, if he succumbs to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) pressure and agrees for his rehabilitation at the Centre?

Will he be a close confidante of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and former state BJP chief Nityanand Rai or any other surprising pick?

Growing assertions of the BJP in governance matters particularly after the party’s historic win at Uttar Pradesh and isolated statements of some senior party leaders to claim the CM’s post lay credence to the saffron brigade’s plan for the likely transfer of power in Bihar.

Party insiders confide that many senior leaders have already started lobbying at the national BJP headquarters to draw the blessings of the top brasses. However, as things stand today, the Union minister of state for home, Nityanand Rai is being considered the most suitable replacement for Kumar in keeping with the caste arithmetic of the state.

“Former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi is out of the scene, as he was relieved from the state politics and made the Rajya Sabha (RS) member. He has been fallen from the grace owing to his proximity with Kumar. Former opposition leaders Nand Kishore Yadav and Prem Kumar are unable to demonstrate their calibre to lead the government,” said a senior party leader, pleading anonymity.

“Rai is close to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who acknowledged the former’s ability to wean away a sizable chunk of Yadav’s community from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and made him his deputy in the Cabinet. Shah had promised the electors of Rai’s constituency that he would be inducted in the Union Cabinet and he stood by his words after the results,” recalled another senior leader.

Party leaders believed that Rai’s non-controversial image and his unflinching loyalty to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are other pluses for him of being considered for the CM’s choice in the next reshuffle, likely in the next couple of months. 

“Rai is also believed to be the prize catch for the party by then stalwart Kailashpati Mishra. Unlike others, he also enjoys immense clout among the upper castes and has a good rapport with party workers at the grassroots level owing to his stint as the state BJP chief,” argued another leader.

Rai, as the general secretary of Bihar Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), had drawn the central party leaders’ attention first in 1990 when he arranged a huge crowd of people from Hajipur areas and foiled the Lalu Prasad-led government’s bid to arrest Lal Krishna Advani, who had embarked on Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. The yatra was taken out in protest against the VP Singh-led Central government’s dilly-dallying in finding a reasonable solution to the vexed Ram Mandir temple dispute.

Senior leaders claim that Rai is still known for his crowd-pulling ability, which enabled him to be chosen by the people of Hajipur to represent them in the assembly thrice. Later, he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Ujiyarpur seat for two consecutive terms, owing to his reputation across the castes. Ujiyarpur is a Yadav-dominated constituency and Rai managed to make a massive dent in the RJD’s bastion.

Nityanand Rai (center) at a press conference in Muzaffarpur on Sunday
Nityanand Rai (center) at a press conference in Muzaffarpur on Sunday

Rai, however, denied having been in the race for the CM’s post at a recent press conference organised by the party at Patna to apprise the BJP’s preparedness to wrest Bochaha assembly seat, the by-polls on which is scheduled to be held on April 12. 

“I am happy with my current assignment and doing my works under direct blessings of PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah,” Rai had said.

Another party leader claimed that Rai’s humility is another merit that catapulted him to a new level in the organisation. “Rai has brought in a generation shift in the organisation. He inducted many talented and educated youth and promising leaders into the organisation and helped them win the assembly seats in the past two elections. It was during his stint as the state party chief when youths from reputed academic institutions like the JNU and Delhi University were introduced into politics,” said a party’s spokesman.

The BJP is indeed eager to control the power and carry on with the vision that it had promised the people to bring in a change in the state. The party’s ambition for the power shift got more pronounced after the massive victory of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. 

It made all the three MLAs of Mukesh Sahni-led Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), which happened to be the ally of NDA, shift their loyalty to the BJP. Sahni was becoming a trouble monger for the BJP after the UP elections, where he had fielded the party’s nominee must to the discomfiture of the Yogi Adityanath-led dispensation.