With just over two months to go for Bihar assembly elections, the leaders of all major political parties have now gone on combat mode. Chief minister Nitish Kumar and his ally Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) are presently hogging the media spotlight with their high profile statement wars against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But elections in Bihar, a state synonymous with caste politics, is by no means only about these personalities. We list below the leaders who will impact the course of these.
Nitish Kumar is a product of the JP movement which he joined in 1974 when he was still a student of Bihar College of Engineering. He was associated with the then stalwarts of Indian politics like Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Karpoori Thakur, Ram Manohar Lohia, VP Singh and George Fernandes.
In 1977, he unsuccessfully contested for the first time in the assembly elections as a member of the Janata Party. He became the member of the Bihar Legislative Assembly for the first time in 1985 and became the state president of the Lok Dal from 1987 to 1988.
In 1989, he became Janata Dal's secretary general in Bihar and was later elected as Lok Sabha MP from Barh seat for the first time. From April 1990 to November 1990 he was the Union minister of state for agriculture and cooperation.
In 1991, he was elected for the second time as MP of the 10th Lok Sabha. From 1991 to 1993 he was the general secretary of the Janata Dal and deputy leader of the party in Parliament. He emerged as the champion of "social justice" and played an active role in the implementation of Mandal commission report.
He along with George Fernandes floated the Samata Party and contested the 1995 assembly elections against Lalu Prasad.
Since the Samata Party could win only six seats, he fought the Lok Sabha polls and was elected as MP in 1996. He was elected again in 1998 and 1999. At the Centre, he worked as the railway minister, surface transport minister and agriculture minister under then prime minister AB Vajpayee.
In 2000, the Janata Dal (U) contested the state assembly elections and Kumar became the chief minister for seven days.
He quit the post before facing the trust vote in the Bihar assembly. Later, he was elected as MP for the sixth term in 2004 and became the leader of the Janata Dal (U) in Parliament.
He was instrumental in becoming a part of the NDA to challenge RJD chief Lalu Prasad. In the November 2005 assembly polls, the JD(U) under his leadership won with a comfortable majority and he became the chief minister for the second term.
The NDA again won the state assembly elections with a thumping majority in 2010 and Kumar became the chief minister of Bihar for the third time. He broke away from the NDA in 2013 over the elevation of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate.
As the BJP-led NDA swept the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Kumar resigned from the post of chief minister owning responsibility for the defeat. He made Jitan Ram Manjhi the chief minister but soon differences cropped up and he had to campaign to replace Manjhi and became the chief minister again.
Father - Ram Lakhan Singh (Vaidya, practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine)
Mother - Parmeshwari Devi
Date of birth - 1 March, 1951
Qualification - Engineering graduate from Bihar College of Engineering, Patna (Now NIT)
Wife – Late Manju Sinha, a school teacher
Children - Son Nishant, also an engineer from BIT, Mesra. Not active in politics so far
Habits - Teetotaler and a non-smoker
Positive point - Able administrator, visionary and meticulous
Lalu Prasad entered students' politics in 1970 and became the general secretary of Patna University students' union and later its president. He plunged into the JP movement in 1974 while he was a law student.
In the course of the JP agitation, he was arrested under MISA and named his eldest daughter Misa after the controversial law as she was born when he was in jail.
In 1977, he was elected to Lok Sabha as a Janata Party candidate and became the youngest MP at the age of 29. Lalu lost the re-election in 1980 Lok Sabha polls.
However, he was elected as an MLA in the 1980 and 1985 assembly polls. During this period, he came closer to Socialist leader Karpoori Thakur, who was the leader of opposition in the Bihar assembly. After Thakur's death, Lalu became the leader of opposition in 1989. In the same year, he was elected as an MP from Saran.
On March 10, 1990, he became the chief minister of Bihar and continued on the post till 1997 before being charge-sheeted in the multi-crore fodder scam. He broke away from the Janata Dal to form the RJD and handed over the reins of the state to his wife Rabri Devi.
He was elected for the third term as a member of Lok Sabha in 1998 and in 2004. He became the railway minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
On September 30, 2013, he, along with 44 others, including politicians and IAS officers, was convicted by the CBI court with rigorous imprisonment of five years and fined of Rs 25 lakh. Subsequently, he was disqualified as an MP and debarred from contesting elections for the next six years.
At present, he is out on bail granted by the Supreme Court.
Father - Kundan Rai
Mother - Marachhiya Devi
Date of birth - June 11, 1948
Qualification - LLB, Patna University
Wife - Rabri Devi
Daughters - Misa Bharti, Rohini Acharya, Ragini, Chanda, Hema, Rajlakshmi, Dhannu
Sons - Tej Pratap and Tejashwi (ex-cricketer)
Habits - Enjoys paan and khaini
Positive point - Popular leaderSushil Kumar Modi
Sushil Kumar Modi became member of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) when he was only 10. He trained in the three-year highest RSS course and became its whole-time worker. He induged in students politics and became the general secretary of the Patna University students union while Lalu Prasad was its president. He joined the JP movement in 1974 and was booked under MISA and various acts during emergency.
After his release, he was made the state general secretary of the ABVP. He joined electoral politics in 1990 and was elected an MLA from Patna Central seat. He was appointed as the chief whip of the BJP in the legislative assembly.
Modi was again elected as an MLA in 1995 and 2000 and served as the leader of opposition in the Bihar assembly till 2004. During this period, he filed a PIL against Lalu Prasad on fodder scam leading to a CBI inquiry into the case and his subsequent imprisonment.
In 2004, Modi was elected to Lok Sabha from Bhagalpur. After the November 2005 Bihar assembly elections, when BJP-JD(U) came to power, Modi resigned from Lok Sabha and became the leader of the BJP legislature party and deputy chief minister in the Nitish Kumar government. He held the finance portfolio and became the chairperson of the central committee of finance ministers on GST. He continued on the post till the JD(U) severed ties with the BJP before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Today, he is one of the most probable candidates for the post of chief minister if the NDA comes to power in the upcoming state assembly elections.
Father - Moti Lal Modi
Mother - Ratna Devi
Date of Birth - January 5, 1952
Qualification - M.Sc
Wife - Jessie George
Sons - Utkarsh Tathagat, Akshay Amritanshu
Habits - Vegetarian, does not even drink tea
Positive point – Meticulous
Ram Vilas Paswan
Ram Vilas Paswan started his political career as a member of the Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP) and was first elected to the Bihar state assembly in 1969. He joined the Lok Dal in 1974 and became its general secretary.
He was arrested during emergency. He was elected to Lok Sabha for the first time in xxx with a record margin from Hajipur seat as Janata Party candidate. He represented Hajipur in Lok Sabha in 1980, 1984, 1989, 1996, 1998 and 2004. He lost the Lok Sabha elections in 2009.
He established the Dalit Sena in 1983 for the emancipation of Dalits and their welfare. In 1989, he was appointed Union minister of labour and welfare in the VP Singh government. He was the railway minister from 1996 to 1998.
In the NDA government, he became the communications minister from 1999 to 2001 and coal minister from 2001 to 2002.
He formed the Lok Janshakti Party in 2000 and joined the UPA government. He was made the Union minister of chemicals and fertilizer and steel.
Paswan has the distinction of serving as a Union minister under five different prime ministers from 1996 to 2009 and being part of all the national coalitions - United Front, NDA and UPA.
After losing from Hajipur in 2009, he became Rajya Sabha member from 2010 to 2014. Then, he joined NDA again and was re-elected from Hajipur seat in 2014.
Father - Jamun Paswan
Mother - Siya Devi
Qualification - LLB
Date of Birth - July 5, 1946
Wife - Reena Paswan (First wife Raj Kumari)
Son - Chirag Paswan (Actor-turned-MP from Jamui)
Daughters – Three (Names not known)
Habits - Yoga freak, non-vegetarian
Positive point: Paswan had held important portfolios in central governments led by various alliances and the lack of any ideological tilt never caused him any problem from taking an opportunistic step.
Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad began his political career as an active volunteer of the ABVP and took active part in the JP movement. He was associated with the ABVP and RSS for several years because his father Thakur Prasad was one of the founder members of the Jan Sangh. He was also the assistant general secretary of the Patna University students union.
He was jailed during Emergency.
In 1995, he became a member of the BJP national executive, party's top policy making body. He was elected to Rajya Sabha in 1995 and became the Union minister of state for coal and mines in 2001 under Vajpayee government.
He was given the charge of ministry of law and justice in 2002 and is credited for speeding up the process of fast-track courts. In 2003, he became the Union information and broadcasting minister.
He was elected to Rajya Sabha from Bihar for the second term in 2006 and also became the national spokesperson of the BJP. He was elevated to become the chief national spokesperson of the BJP in 2007 and appointed as national general secretary in 2010.
In 2012, he was elected to Rajya Sabha for the third term and became the deputy leader of opposition in the Upper House.
When the BJP-led NDA came to power in 2014, he was made the Union minister holding the law and justice as well as the information and broadcasting ministry.
Prasad has been a practicing lawyer in the Patna high court since 1980 and served as a senior advocate at the Patna high court and Supreme Court. As a lawyer, he argued in favour of a PIL filed against Lalu Prasad and others in the multi-crore fodder scam in which Lalu Prasad and officers were convicted.
He is also a lawyer in the Ayodhya Ram temple title suit on behalf of Ram Lalla.
Father - Thakur Prasad
Mother - Bimla Prasad
Qualification - MA (political science), LLB
Date of Birth - August 30, 1954
Wife - Maya Shankar
Children - One son, one daughter
Hobbies - Golf, reading, writingPositive point: Prasad, besides holding important portfolio in the Narendra Modi government, also enjoys good reputation in Bihar politics.
Radha Mohan Singh
Radha Mohan Singh began his career as a swayamsewak of RSS and student leader in 1967. He became the ABVP town chief (nagar pramukh) of Motihari and served as an active member of the Jan Sangh and BJP. In 1989, he was made the state president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, a youth wing of the party.
He was first elected to Lok Sabha in 1989 from East Champaran and continued to represent his constituency in 1996, 1999, 2009 and 2014.
Due to his hard work in strengthening the organisation, he was made the state general secretary of the BJP in 1990 and continued on the post toll 1993. Singh was also made the secretary of the state election committee in 1993.
From 2004 to 2005, he served as the vice-president of the Kisan Morcha of the BJP. He was elevated to the post of state JP president in 2006 and continued on the post till 2009. In 2013, he was made in-charge of the Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh BJP.
After his election to Lok Sabha in 2014, he was made the Union minister of agriculture in the Narendra Modi government.
Father - Baidyanath Singh
Mother - Jai Sundari Devi
Qualification - BA
Date of Birth - September 1, 1949
Wife - Shanti Devi
Children - One son, one daughterHobbies - Social work, cricket (district president and ex-vice president of Bihar cricket association)
Positive point: Singh is known as an organisational man and has served as the MP from Motihari five times since 1989.
Jitan Ram Manjhi
Jitan Ram Manjhi entered politics by joining the Congress party in 1980. He was elected as an MLA from Fatehpur assembly seat in Gaya district and became a minister in the Chandrashekhar Singh government.
He won from the same constituency in 1985. Between 1980 and 1990, he served as minister in the state in successive governments headed by Bindeshwari Dubey, Satyendra Narayan Sinha and Jagannath Mishra.
In 1990 and 1995, he lost the assembly elections as a Congress candidate from Fatehpur seat. In 1995, he joined the Janata Dal. When the Janata Dal split and the then Bihar CM Lalu Prasad formed the RJD in 1996, he joined the new party. He was elected to the state assembly from Barachatti seat in a by-election in 1996 after previous MLA Bhagwati Devi became MP from Gaya Lok Sabha seat. He became a minister in the Lalu Prasad cabinet and then under Rabri Devi, who was sworn in as chief minister in July 1997.
In 2000, he was elected as an MLA from Barachatti seat as the RJD candidate and appointed as minister again in the Rabri Devi cabinet.
In 2005, he joined the Janata Dal (U) and was elected as an MLA from the Barachatti seat in the October 2005 elections.
He became a minister in the NDA government headed by Nitish Kumar. In 2010, he was elected from Makhdumpur seat in Gaya district and appointed as a minister again in the Nitish Kumar government.
Manjhi unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Gaya seat. After JD(U)'s debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Kumar quit the CM's post and made Manjhi the chief minister.
But soon, Manjhi developed differences with Kumar and accused the latter of making unwarranted interference in matters of governance. After nearly a two-month long power struggle, the JD(U) legislature party asked Manjhi to resign and make way for Kumar. Manjhi refused to oblige and asked for a trial of strength on the floor of the Bihar assembly.
However, he put in his papers hours before the floor test.
After quitting, he floated Hindustan Awami Morcha (HAM) and has joined hands with the BJP. His party will fight the 2015 assembly polls as a part of the NDA.
Father - Ramjit Ram Manjhi
Mother - Sukri Devi
Qualification - LLB
Date of Birth - October 6, 1944
Wife - Shanti Devi
Sons - Praveen Suman, Santosh Kumar Suman
Daughters - Baby Kumari, Sunayana Devi, Prabha Devi, Ruby Kumari, Pramila KumariHabit - Teetotaler, non-vegetarian
Positive point: Manjhi knows his Mahadalit status gives him the right credential to woo the highly disparate and divided Dalit votes.
Upendra Kushwaha started his political career in 1985 as the Bihar general secretary of the Yuva Lok Dal and became the national general secretary of the Yuva Janata Dal in 1988. He continued on the post till 1993 before joining the Samata Party floated by Nitish Kumar-George Fernandes duo in 1994. He then became the general secretary of the Samata Party and remained on the post till 2002.
He was elected to the Bihar legislative assembly in 2000 from Jandaha as Samata Party candidate and appointed as the deputy leader of the state assembly. During this period, the then leader of opposition Sushil Kumar Modi was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004.
Almost simultaneously, the Samata Party merged with the Janata Dal to become Janata Dal (U) and the number of JD (U) MLAs outnumbered that of the BJP. So, Kushwaha became the leader of opposition in the Bihar assembly and continued on the post till February 2005. It is understood that JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar was instrumental in making Kushwaha the leader of opposition.
However, his differences with Kumar forced him to quit the JD (U) and join the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). He became the state NCP president. Later, he joined JD (U) again and became a Rajya Sabha MP in July 2010. His relationship with Kumar did not last long and he again quit the JD (U) and resigned from the membership of Rajya Sabha.
In 2013, he floated his own political party named Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) and consolidated backward forces, which were against Kumar and Lalu Prasad. The RLSP joined the NDA led by the BJP. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he became an MP from Karakat seat while two more RLSP nominees won from Sitamarhi and Jehanabad.
Kushwaha was inducted into the Union council of ministers as minister of state for rural development, panchayati raj, drinking water and sanitation. After the Union cabinet reshuffle in November 2014, he has been appointed as minister of state for human resource development.
Father - Muneshwar Singh
Mother - Muneshwari Devi
Qualification - MA
Date of Birth - February 6, 1960
Wife - Snehlata
Children - one daughter, one son
Positive point: Even BJP leaders says Kushwaha is the most capable and deserving candidate for the post of chief minister.
Ram Kripal Yadav
Ram Kripal Yadav started his political career as a councillor of the Patna municipal corporation and became its deputy mayor in 1985. He became a follower of Lalu Prasad in 1990. His loyalty paid him and he became a member of the legislative council.
In 1993, he was elected to Lok Sabha from Patna seat (Now Patna Saheb) in a by-election. He was re-elected to Lok Sabha in 1996 in the general election. In the 2004 general election, he defeated BJP nominee CP Thakur from the Patna seat.
In 2009, he did not contest the Lok Sabha polls as his mentor Lalu Prasad contested from the Pataliputra seat, carved out of old Patna seat. However, Lalu was defeated by JD (U) nominee Ranjan Prasad Yadav.
In 2014, he wanted to contest from Pataliputra seat as an RJD candidate but Lalu Prasad fielded his daughter Misa Bharti. In protest, Ram Kripal resigned from the RJD and joined BJP and won with a substantial margin defeating Misa.
He is currently the Union minister of state for drinking water and sanitation.
Father - Kishori Prasad
Mother - Sudha Devi
Qualification - LLB
Date of Birth - October 12, 1957
Wife - Kiran Devi
Children - Two sons, one daughter
Positive point: With him in the party, BJP has focused on creating its own army of Yadav leaders to counter Lalu, a Yadav himself.