Nitish Kumar’s resounding success at the polls begs a comparison with other chief ministers who’ve
managed to hold on to their seats for more than one term. While the challenges of governance are
different for different states, there are some broad commonalities between current CMs who have got the
people’s mandate for consecutive terms. Development, of course, is the all-round mantra. But the trick is to combine this with other winning traits — such as a clean image, an ability to connect with voters, and a knack for trouble-shooting. Tweak the formula with a local flavour, and you have a clear blue-print for repeat success. Here’s looking at all that goes into the making of a second-term (or more) CM.
Nitish Kumar (59)
Bihar, from 2005 (next elections 2015)
Making Biharis proud of their state
Nitish Kumar may be an engineer by training, but he is now considered the Chanakya of social engineering in Bihar. His thumping win is a good indicator of all the factors that go into the making of a second term CM.
He is a good mix of seeming humility (the unassuming manner in which he received news of the win) and strength (he didn’t shy away from taking on Congress’ Rahul Gandhi). His image of an honest socialist instills confidence. Moreover, he is an orator who knows how to appeal to his audience — his promise that he will make Biharis proud to belong to Bihar is an example of his ability to form an emotional connect.
His winning formula is attributed to the creation of a new constituency of women and Extremely Backward Classes. His proviso for 50% reservation for women in panchayats gave women administrative powers. In 23 districts, more women voted and that totalled to 54% of all votes cast. Pro-minority initiatives like speedy compensation for Bhagalpur riot victims, funds for madrasas, extension of Balika Cycle Yojana to girls of Muslim schools, resulted in 26% of Muslims voting for Kumar. Keeping Varun Gandhi and Narendra Modi out of the Bihar campaigning was a masterstroke — perhaps the most important factor in even the BJP getting a good percentage of Muslim votes.
Deliver, deliver, deliver
The arrest of over 50,000 absconders, speedy trials in more than 1.5 lakh cases including 2,000 life
imprisonments brought law and order under control in Bihar. Add to that more than 10,500 km of roads including 3,500 km of national highways constructed, developing the poorer districts, and an emphasis on
education and health — and it created a clear path for his return to power.
Narendra Modi (60)
Gujarat, from 2001 (next elections 2012)
Learning from the master strategist
An excellent orator and a master strategist, Modi made his way to a third-term in Gujarat in 2007, even though there was open rebellion within the BJP. In the previous polls in 2002, he won a landslide victory despite the communal riots during his term. The staunch ‘Hindutva’ image notwithstanding, he’s seen as a leader who has “restored regional pride” and has brought tremendous economic and agricultural growth.
The power of power
Under his tenure, Gujarat boasts of supplying 24/7 uninterrupted power for domestic use and seven hours of cheap, daily power for irrigation in the farming sector.
A good plan
Just ahead of the elections he launched two major populist packages — welfare schemes for forest dwellers and fishermen — to attract the important tribal segments. He dropped 50-plus sitting MLAs to eliminate the anti-incumbency factor at the grassroots level.
Sheila Dikshit (72)
Delhi, from 1998 (next elections 2013)
Roads, flyovers and the Metro helped
Her grandmotherly smile, humility and charisma helped Sheila Dikshit sail through the elections in 2008. Coupled with development and the perception of good governance, she became a third-time chief minister, despite not just the Opposition but also detractors within her party.
All about the image
A weak opposition always kept her popularity up. In the first two terms, the opposition was unable to corner her on any major issue or scandal, helping her strengthen her reputation as an ‘honest’ chief minister.
Riding the wave
Her government’s 10-year record saw some major improvements in infrastructure. New roads and flyovers apart, she has now given the capital a world-class transport system — the Delhi Metro.
Naveen Patnaik (64)
Orissa, from 2000 (next elections 2013)
Clean image + superb strategy = win
A writer but a man of few words, he returned as the CM for the third time. In his second term, he faced criticism for favouring the corporate sector, though the ‘clean’ image was intact.
Widely projected as a pro-poor leader. The R2 per kg rice scheme made him popular. Has taken a firm stand on corrupt bureaucracy.
His relationship with the BJP was strained since the 2008 Kandhamal anti-Christian riots. But he stumped them when he broke ties just before the 2009 elections. His best-kept secret was political strategist Pyarimohan Mohapatra whose election strategy googlied BJP and Congress.
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (66)
West Bengal, from 2000 (next elections 2011)
Cashing in on the ‘future’
In 2006, the Left Front returned to power through a landslide victory, largely because of their slogan ‘Agriculture is our foundation, industry is our future’. But since then, he’s invited criticism for being a blindfolded apostle of industry.
His white dhoti- kurta and kolhapuri chappals are symbols of his honesty. He refused to move from his tiny sarkari flat to a more chief minister-worthy accommodation.
Post Nandigram and Singur, when the tables turned on him, Bhattacharjee has tried populist measures, ranging from mid-day meals in schools to welfare of the minorities.
Shivraj Singh Chauhan (51)
Madhya Pradesh, from 2005 (next elections 2013)
Kept the focus sharply on development
He’s the only non-Congress chief minister to rule for a second time in Madhya Pradesh. Popularly known as Mama, Shivraj Singh Chauhan returned with promises to remove the under-developed tag from the state.
Implementation of schemes such as Ladli Laxmi Yojana and Kanyadan Yojana helped him win rural voters. He keeps the BJP top-brass in good humour, keeping his leadership within the party unchallenged.
Singh, like Nitish Kumar, also succeeded in keeping Narendra Modi out of the MP campaign, and kept the focus on development.
Bhupinder Singh Hooda (63)
Haryana, from 2005 (next elections 2014)
Genial demeanour won him admirers
Handpicked by the Congress for the role in 2005, Hooda is the first Haryana CM in more than three decades to return to power.
His genial demeanour, a contrast to the domineering style of Om Prakash Chautala, won him a lot of admirers, although he was criticised for his “over-dependency” on bureaucracy . His “sop spree” —waivers, higher pensions and higher land compensation —also helped him.
The Congress gained from the five-cornered contest and the split in the opposition votes where the tie-ups crumbled before the elections due to the bloated egos of their leaders.
Raman Singh (58)
Chhattisgarh, from 2003 (next elections 2013)
Populist schemes ensured return
Ayurvedic doctor-turned-politician Dr Raman Singh’s non-controversial image and disciplined and tactful approach helped return him to power, albeit by a small margin the second time around.
The decision to field 46 new faces to overcome anti-incumbency worked in the BJP’s favour. They managed to get the support of tribals, Congress’ traditional vote-bank, through pro-poor, pro-farmer welfare schemes. Aggressive electioneering played a role.
Rice to the occasion
The subsidised rice scheme for all BPL families emerged as a flagship programme.