| Nikhil Kumar |
Patna, March 5: Former Kerala governor Nikhil Kumar would visit Bihar so often, there used to be a joke in political circles whenever he went back to Thiruvananthapuram.
“Nikhilbabu is on a visit to Kerala,” Congress leaders would say in a tongue-in-cheek manner whenever Kumar would be in his Raj Bhavan down south. In fact, Kumar was a regular in Bihar even when he was governor of Nagaland.
It thus came as no surprise to Congress leaders in Bihar when Kumar met Lalu Prasad on Tuesday and immediately decided to quit as governor to contest elections from Aurangabad with RJD support.
The son of former chief minister late S.N. Sinha, named Chotey Sarkar by his followers, the former Delhi police chief, also symbolises a legacy carried out since Independence when Bihar’s first chief minister S.K. Sinha and Nikhil’s grandfather, Anugrah Narain Singh, also from the Congress, were considered political rivals.
Their rivalry trickled down to caste as S.K. Sinha was a Bhumihar and A.N. Sinha a Rajput.
At one stage of Bihar politics, former chief minister S.N. Sinha commanded a substantial influence over Rajputs in Bihar.
In fact, Aurangabad parliamentary constituency was nicknamed the “Chittorgarh of Bihar” because of Rajput dominance in this seat.
S.N. Sinha and his family have held sway over this constituency for most of the time.
However, since delimitation, Rajput dominance has been curtailed and any candidate now requires Yadav votes to sail through.
Nikhil Kumar had won the seat in 2004 when the Congress and RJD were in alliance.
He lost in 2009 when the alliance broke down.
“That is why Nikhilbabu sought Lalu’s assurances before deciding to quit his governor’s post and contest the elections here,” remarked a Congress leader.
He pointed out that Nikhil Kumar’s family had been close to the Gandhi family.
In fact, the late S.N. Sinha’s reputation as a leader of the Rajputs had attracted RJD chief Lalu Prasad to his family. In the 1990s, he had selected S.N. Sinha’s wife Kishori Sinha to contest against Lovely Anand — wife of now jailed ex-MP Anand Singh — in the Vaishali by-poll.
Kishori Sinha was defeated. Lalu was trying to add Rajputs to his winning Muslim-Yadav (MY) combine because of the hostility shown to him by the Bhumihars.
The combination was called MRY in political circles and at one time Lalu had nine ministers from the Rajput caste.
Political pundits reason that with Nikhil Kumar on his side, the RJD-Congress alliance might get the Rajput vote in Aurgangabad.
“The family’s influence has subsided. Local caste leaders now call the shots. In Rajput dominated districts like Karakat, Arrah, Seohar, Vaishali and others, Rajputs vote for local candidates. In Saran and Purnea they vote for the BJP. In Maharjganj, they vote for Prabhunath Singh irrespective of whether he is with the RJD or JD(U),” said a senior JD(U) leader.