For close to 15 years, he ruled politically volatile Bihar with a paradoxical cocktail of stubborn ideology and pragmatic resilience, making friends with foes and foes with friends at will. Nitish Kumar's unusual knack for spotting friends has ensured a fourth straight term for him in office despite the drastic slump in his electoral fortune that relegated his JD (U) to the third position in the state assembly with just 43 seats, down from 71 it had won in 2015.
The most atypical of politicians owing their rise to post-Mandal politics, Nitish Kumar stood out for his ability to address the governance deficit, unlike a majority of the breed reared in the socialist stable, but was often accused of pursuing politics of opportunism. Call it political opportunism or sagacity, his moves, in effect, prevented the Hindutva forces from holding sway over Bihar, where a section of the BJP feels mortified over not having its own chief minister till date despite enjoying a near hegemonic status nationally.
Known for weighing his options carefully before making any move, Kumar, upon a closer look, comes across as a risk taker who has not shied away from going against the tide. An engineer by training who had taken an active part in the JP movement, Kumar spurned a job offer from the state electricity department and decided to take the political gamble, an oddity among educated youth in Bihar for whom the lure of "sarkaari naukri" remains undiminished. Unlike Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan, his co-travellers during the movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan, electoral success eluded Kumar for long.