Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday named Rajya Sabha member Ramchandra Prasad Singh as the national president of the Janata Dal (United).
The decision was taken at the party’s national executive meeting, where Kumar proposed Singh’s name, which was then approved by other members of the JD(U).
Singh, a former Indian Administrative Service officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, is known to be a close confidante of Kumar, and had served as the principal secretary during Kumar’s earlier stint as chief minister, according to The Indian Express. In 2010, Singh took voluntary retirement to get nominated to the Rajya Sabha from the party. He was re-nominated to the Upper House in 2016 and has been serving as JD(U)’s general secretary (Organisation).
A member of the Kurmi caste like Kumar, Singh also hails from the chief minister’s home district of Nalanda. Singh and Lok Sabha MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh, alias Lalan Singh, were seen as the number two leaders in the JD(U) hierarchy after Kumar.
Kumar’s decision to hand over the party’s reins to Singh is also significant in context of the recent Assembly elections held in Bihar. With the JD(U) passing through hard times, the task would be cut out for Singh to strengthen the organisation, and deal with the BJP.
Kumar said at the key meeting on Sunday that he was not greedy for the chief minister’s post, News18 reported. “People are saying that the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] wants the CM’s position,” he was quoted as saying by the news channel. “I do not care. I am not attached to the position.”
The Bihar chief minister added: “After the election results came, I made my wish known to the coalition[National Democratic Alliance]. But the pressure was so much that I had to take up work again.”
The BJP and the Janata Dal (United) won 125 seats in the 243-member state Assembly. The Opposition Grand Alliance clinched 110. Kumar was re-elected as the chief minister for his fourth term. The BJP, however, one-upped its ally for the first time in the state by winning 74 seats to emerge as the larger party in the alliance. Kumar, on the other hand, saw his clout diminish as the JD(U)’s numbers came down to 43 from 71 in 2015. This was his party’s worst performance in Bihar since the 2005 Assembly polls.
Besides this, the exodus of six of the seven JD(U) MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh to the BJP and the upcoming polls in neighbouring West Bengal are some of the other immediate challenges for the new JD(U) president.