Nitish Kumar, the Janata Dal United leader and the current Chief Minister of Bihar is well versed in politics. Not only does he always try to be on the right side but he has also been known to maintain a very low-key appearance. He is one of the few non-BJP leaders today who have successfully managed to keep their family separate from politics, commendable indeed. While many of his decisions taken in his political career can be challenged, there are very few allegations which can be raised against him as a person and as a leader who has fought for his state. In a letter written post the unfortunate demise of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee the JDU leader has revealed the impact Atal Ji had on him. The letter dripping with gratitude, shows not only how tall a leader Atal Ji was but also shows how he inspired a generation of leaders, irrespective of party affiliations.
The letter begins with mention of how the two first met in 1995, while Atal Ji was already a known face in the national politics, Nitish Kumar had faced defeat at the hands of Lalu Yadav’s RJD in Bihar. The meeting point was the National Executive meeting of the BJP held at Mumbai, Nitish Kumar along with many opposition leaders was present to negotiate a possible alliance with the BJP to uproot RJD from Bihar and Congress from the centre. Nitish was surprised by the warm manner in which Atal Ji and Lal Krishna Advani not only listened to their demands related to certain key points but also agreed to them, which led to the coalition formally taking place. Nitish says, “This allowed us to fight our first election together in 1996, winning seats in double digits, which was an impressive performance in Bihar; from that election onward, Atal-ji often came to my erstwhile parliamentary constituency Barh; and if Vajpayee was coming to campaign for you, you could be sure that even your political detractors would sit up and listen to what he said.”
The next time he got an opportunity to work with Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in 1998 when he was inducted in Atal Ji’s cabinet as the Railways Minister. While the government could not stay in power for long, Nitish Kumar and his home state Bihar benefitted a lot in that short span. Multiple power projects were allotted to the state which also boosted JDU’s credibility in the state along with three mega-bridges to ease the discomfort of people of the state, helping JDU in the long run. Atal Ji, according to Nitish was very ‘generous’ to him and Bihar, allocation of funds were done as per need, lack of resources was never cited as a problem for Bihar by the then PM Atal Ji. Nitish Kumar also adds , “If he had continued as PM for another 5 years after 2004, I really believe Bihar would have benefited with much more development.”
Nitish Kumar also thanks Atal Bihari Vajpayee for teaching him values of the leadership and how to oppose without hate. While it would be very difficult to compare any leader of today with the ‘Ajatshatru’ Atal Bihari Vajpayee whom even the opposition leaders welcomed, Nitish Kumar might have picked up a thing or two from the many qualities of the great person. This letter is symbolic of how Atal Ji not just helped to change the BJP but also changed the way politics was done in the country, while his loss is irreparable his many teachings will and should serve as a guide to the budding politicians of today. Nitish Kumar through his letter has come out strongly to support the leader who helped shape his political career, gratitude for the person who helped him be a better human being and whom he considers to be his ideal for a statesman.