Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was elected as president of Janata Dal (United) on Sunday for the first time. Kumar’s elevation to the post is critical for the ruling party in Bihar as it attempts to increase its political presence in other states.
With Kumar taking the top post, the 10-year tenure of former JD (U) chief and veteran Sharad Yadav comes to an end. Yadav, who had announced earlier that he would not seek another term, resigned as president on Sunday. The decision to elect Kumar was taken at the party’s national executive meeting in the national capital.
Interestingly, the 65-year-old Kumar is JD (U)’s first chief from Bihar. Previous presidents Yadav and George Fernandes did not originally belong to the state. Kumar had stepped down as chief minister of the state after 2014 Lok Sabha election, but soon took over the reins again from former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.
Last year, the JD (U) in a successful coalition with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress party won the Bihar assembly elections, with Kumar becoming the chief minister of the state.
On Sunday, Kumar’s name was proposed by Yadav and seconded by the party’s secretary general and parliamentarian K.C. Tyagi and general secretary Javed Raza, among others. Tyagi later told reporters that according to the party, the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections next year is a “major battle” before the next general elections in 2019.
Tyagi added the importance of political mergers as the party is attempting to align with other political parties. Talking about the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s defeat in Bihar last year, Tyagi said: “We stopped them (BJP) in Bihar and we are working to stop them in Uttar Pradesh.”
Kumar replaces Yadav who has to his credit the successive wins in the state assembly elections in Bihar. It was under Yadav’s tenure that the JD (U) broke away from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Yadav is a founding member of the JD (U) and had been the president of the party since 2006 when he took over from George Fernandes and was re-elected in 2009 and 2013.
In 2013, the JD (U) amended the party constitution to allow Yadav to be elected to the post for a third time as the constitution allowed a maximum of two tenures.