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Nitish Kumar: Bihar’s ‘Mr Clean’ who humbled Narendra Modi

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Patna: He studied to be an engineer but ended up embracing politics. And in a state where many politicians are detested, Nitish Kumar – who took oath on Friday as Bihar’s chief minister – is widely recognized as a rare icon of simplicity and honesty.

Even critics of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JD-U) grudgingly admire his many traits that enabled him to make up with his friend-turned-foe-turned-ally Lalu Prasad and deliver a huge blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP in one of the most bitterly fought assembly elections.

Born in 1951 at Bakhtiyarpur in Patna district to an Ayurvedic physician and Congress leader, Nitish Kumar plunged into politics in the early 1970s at a time when Bihar was in ferment.

The numerous street protests in which he took part slowly turned the ‘Munna’ (child) — as he was known in the family — to a leader, getting elected to the Bihar assembly for the first time in 1985.

He became president of the Yuva Lok Dal in 1987 and secretary general of the then undivided Janata Dal two years later.

He entered the Lok Sabha in 1989 and went on to win five parliamentary elections from Bihar as his popularity soared. But as he grew and grew in stature, he kept his family away from politics.

A minister of state in the V.P. Singh government, he became railway minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government but resigned when a train disaster claimed the lives of about 250 commuters.

He returned to the cabinet as the minister for surface transport and agriculture.

Even as his former friend Lalu Prasad – a successful politician in his own right – earned notoriety for his brash conduct and corruption, Nitish Kumar came to be recognized for his moderate approach to everything.

He is a teetotaller who detests tobacco. Over time, he became an advocate of equitable development and good governance, which Bihar seemed to lack.

Nitish Kumar became the chief minister of Bihar for the first time in 2000, but his government was short lived. He had to resign within a week as he failed to prove his majority in the assembly.

By then, Nitish Kumar had come out of Lalu Prasad’s shadow and charted his own course.

In 2005, he teamed up with the BJP — a party he had opposed for years — to take power in the state again and end the 15 long years of reign by Lalu Prasad. He led the coalition to victory again in 2010.

The rise of Narendra Modi in the BJP, however, upset Nitish Kumar, who walked out of the 17-year-long alliance.

After the BJP led by an aggressive Modi swept the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Nitish Kumar made way for colleague Jitan Ram Manjhi, only to reclaim the post.

The JD-U stalwart is credited with re-laying roads that had virtually ceased to exist, building over 12,000 bridges and 66,000 roads, completing long-delayed infrastructure projects, appointing more than three lakh school teachers and ensuring that doctors attended health centres.

He also cracked down on criminals with strong links to politics. Speedy trials were ordered against 85,000 criminals, many of them politicians. All this was a veritable revolution in Bihar.

When the assembly elections were called this year, it became another prestige battle between Modi and Nitish Kumar. This time, having made up with Lalu Prasad, he humbled the prime minister in an election result which most pundits said would have national repercussions.

That much was evident when top leaders of non-BJP parties made it a point to attend his swearing-in on Tuesday.

His aides say Nitish Kumar is a firm believer in hard work and has a vision. In the decade he governed Bihar, the state made news for economic development. The law and order situation pointedly improved.

“It was the technocrat in him that reflected in his bid to develop Bihar. Nitish Kumar became a ‘vikas purush (man of development). Even his critics agree,” JD-U state president Vashisht Narain Singh, who has known Nitish Kumar since the 1990s, told IANS.

(Imran Khan, IANS)

 

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CJI faces revolt from four senior most SC judges

The four judges -- Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar -- released a letter they wrote to Justice Misra a couple of months ago

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Supreme court went into a frenzy as four senior judges revolt against CJI. Wikimedia Common
Supreme court went into a frenzy as four senior judges revolt against CJI. Wikimedia Common
  • The sudden revolt against Chief Justice of India (CJI) by the four senior-most judges of Supreme Court has sent the whole judicial system into an uproar.
  • The four judges accused the CJI of corruption and breaches in a surprise Press Conference.
  • Judge Loya’s death’s controversy, supposedly, sparked this reaction out of the other judges.

Divisions in the Supreme Court burst out in the open on Friday when four senior-most judges took an unprecedented step of addressing the media to accuse Chief Justice Dipak Misra of breaching rules in assigning cases to appropriate benches, with one of them pointing to the plea regarding the mysterious death of Special CBI judge B. H. Loya.

The hurried press conference was called to reveal CJI's corruption. Pixabay
The hurried press conference was called to reveal CJI’s corruption. Pixabay

At a hurriedly called press conference at his residence, Justice J. Chelameswar and three other colleagues said the Supreme Court administration was “not in order” and their efforts to persuade Justice Misra even this morning “with a specific request” failed, forcing them to “communicate with the nation” directly.

The four judges — Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar — released a letter they wrote to Justice Misra a couple of months ago, conceding that he was the master of roster but that was “not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues”.

Asked specifically if they were upset over reference of the matter seeking a probe into the suspicious death of Judge Loya, Justice Gogoi said: “Yes.”

Judge Loya's death is said to have happened due to a conspiracy. Pixabay
Judge Loya’s death is said to have happened due to a conspiracy. Pixabay

Judge Loya, who was hearing a case relating to the killing of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh in an alleged fake shootout in which BJP chief Amit Shah was named an accused (later discharged), died of cardiac arrest in 2014. His family has raised doubts over the circumstances in which Judge Loya died and have sought an independent probe into it.

Plea’s seeking probe came up for a hearing in the Supreme Court on Friday when the top court expressed concerns over it and said it was a “serious issue”. It asked the Maharashtra government to produce all the documents related to the case before January 15.

In a seven-page letter, the four judges said they were not mentioning details of the cases only to avoid embarrassing the institution because “such departures have already damaged the images of this institution to some extent”.

The clash among the judges in the highest court also comes in the wake of a controversial order in November in which Justice Misra declared that the Chief Justice “is the master of the roster” having exclusive power to decide which case will go to which judge.

The CJI called himself 'master of roster' further enraging other judges. Pixabay
The CJI called himself ‘master of the roster’ further enraging other judges. Pixabay

The CJI had given the order a day after a two-judge bench headed by Justice Chelameswar had passed an order that a five-judge bench of senior most judges in the apex court should be set up to consider an independent probe into a corruption case in which bribes were allegedly taken in the name of settling cases pending before Supreme Court judges.

Holding that the Chief Justice was only the first among equals, the four judges contended that there were well-settled and time-honoured conventions guiding the Chief Justice in dealing with the strength of the bench required or the composition thereof.

“A necessary corollary to the above-mentioned principle is the members of any multi-numbered judicial body, including this court, would not arrogate to themselves the authority to deal with and pronounce upon matters which ought to be heard by appropriate benches, both composition-wise and strength-wise with due regard to the roster fixed,” they wrote in the letter.

They said any departure from the two rules would not only lead to “unpleasant and undesirable consequences of creating doubt in the body politic about the integrity of the institution” but would create “chaos”.

The four judges also touched upon another controversial issue, the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) on the appointment of judges over which the Supreme Court had locked horns with the government.

The four judges also touched upon other problematic issues. deliason.files.wordpress.com
The four judges also touched upon other problematic issues. deliason.files.wordpress.com

The government, the letter said, had not responded to the communication and “in view of this silence it must be taken that the MoP has been accepted by the government on the basis of the order of this court”.

Justice Chelameswar told the media that they were “convinced that unless this institution is protected and maintains its requirements, democracy will not survive in the country or any country… The hallmark of a democracy is independent and impartial judges.

“Since all our efforts failed… Even this morning, on a particular issue, we went and met the Chief Justice with a specific request. Unfortunately, we could not convince him that we were right.”

Justice Gogoi said they were “discharging the debt to the nation that has got us here”.

The government appeared to distance itself from the controversy, saying the judges should sort the issue themselves.

Minister of State for Law P. Chaudhary said: “Our judiciary is one of the known, recognised judiciaries in the world. It is an independent judiciary. At this stage, I think no agency is required to intervene or interfere. The Chief Justice and other members should sit together and resolve. There is no question of panic.”

the matter should be resolved among the judges themselves, says P. Chaudhary.

The Supreme Court split had an immediate political fallout, with CPI leader D. Raja saying after meeting Justice Chelameswar that Parliament will have to devise methods to sort out problems like this in the top judiciary.

Two judges, Justice S. A. Bobde and Justice L. Nageshwar Rao, are understood to have called on Justice Chelameswar. IANS