Nitish Kumar began his political career as a student activist at Bihar Engineering College, who was drawn into the popular anti-Indira movement led by socialist leader Jaya Prakash Narayan in 1974. His debut into politics was rewarded with two quick jail terms, shortly before and after Emergency was imposed.
Like many other student leaders, he too entered the electoral fray - on a Janata Party ticket - when Emergency ended and polls were held in 1977 and lost. He lost from Harnaut assembly seat in Nalanda district, contested and lost again in 1980.
Luck smiled on him in 1985, when he won from Harnaut as a Lok Dal candidate. He exploited the opportunity and made a mark for himself. He stood out in the assembly for being an articulate speaker. In 1987, he became the president of the Yuva Lok Dal and by 1989, was the secretary general of the Janata Dal in Bihar.
When the anti-Bofors wave brought the opposition together against Rajiv Gandhi and his Congress party in 1989, he contested the Lok Sabha elections from Barh and defeated former union minister Ramlakhan Singh Yadav.
Soon he found his feet in the power corridor of New Delhi, as the minister of state for agriculture under prime minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh. He was instrumental in installing the government Lalu Prasad in Bihar in 1990, but their relationship strained later. Kumar and 12 other MPs walked out of Janata Dal to form the Samata Party in 1994.
Kumar became the Railway Minister when NDA came to power in 1998. His portfolio later changed to agriculture. In between, he was the chief minister of Bihar for seven days from March 3, 2000, to March 10.
Kumar lost the 2004 Lok Sabha elections to RJD's Vijay Krishna, but soon won from the adjoining Nalanda seat vacated by George Fernandes, who had shifted to his old Muzaffarpur constituency. Months later he quit Delhi to focus on Bihar. The decision paid off. In 2005, he ended the 15-year rule of the RJD leading NDA to victory in the state polls.