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Eye on poll, Nitish builds his team of experts

india Updated: Aug 18, 2013 17:14 IST
Ashok Mishra

After positioning himself at the national political scene as one of the probable prime ministerial candidates before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, chief minister Nitish Kumar wants to project an image of his party, which has talent and ability to run the government.

Kumar, who has hitherto been banking largely on a coterie of supporters who stood by him through thick and thin, is now in a frantic search for talent from the pool of former bureaucrats and experts in other fields to run the state administration and boost his image among the national leaders.

Kumar's yearning for talent around him is apparent from some of the advisors he appointed in the recent past. Soon after assuming office for the second term, he appointed Mangala Rai, an agriculture scientist of repute, as his agriculture advisor. It was Rai, whose valuable suggestions and guidelines helped the state government draft a 20-year agriculture roadmap.

Early this year, he appointed a career diplomat and famous litterateur Pawan Kumar Verma as his cultural advisor, a post created exclusively for him.

The former Indian ambassador in Bhutan, Verma had expressed his desire to work with him. In the political circle, it is widely speculated that Verma may be sent to Rajya Sabha from Bihar.

Kumar is all set to rope in former union home secretary Raj Kumar Singh as advisor on infrastructure development. After Nitish came to power in 2005, Singh served as principal secretary of the road construction department and was credited with having changed the face of the state's roads.

A 1975 batch IAS officer of Bihar cadre, Singh retired as union home secretary on June 30. Once appointed, he will enjoy ministerial rank as the third such advisor to Nitish Kumar.

Bureaucrat-turned-MP N K Singh is a key player in Nitish's team. A suave bureaucrat with a vast experience in financial matters and high-level contacts, Singh is credited with successfully showcasing Bihar in the country and abroad. He is also one of the strong votaries of demand for special category status to Bihar.

In the battle between Nitish Kumar and his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi over the growth models, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has preferred the “Nitish brand of economics” over Modi's industrial growth model. As a big supporter of equitable growth, Sen has said that there was a strong political and economic case for Bihar to be given the special status.

One of the staunch votaries of “critical support” to Bihar is Lord Meghnad Desai, who believes that the state has reached a crucial stage for its turnaround. Desai is also a member of the governing body of the Nalanda International University, a pet project of Nitish Kumar.

“If Nitish Kumar has to fight the BJP and RJD, he needs to create an eclectic mix of nationally and internationally known experts in different fields.

He is trying to create a balance team of veteran politicians with proven administrative skills and former bureaucrats. This way, he would be able to manage things the way Mamata Bannerjee did in West Bengal to beat the CPM,” a close confidante of Nitish said.

Kumar has not hesitated from drawing talent from other parties. But the long-time party associates, who have been ignored, are a bit uneasy that they might not be there to relish the moment of glory of the party they had nourished.