New Delhi: He fought and won six consecutive Lok Sabha polls but as chief minister, has never been elected through a popular vote. Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, seeking another mandate for his Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in the ongoing state elections, is a member of the Bihar legislative council, or Upper house of the bicameral legislature.
Bihar is among the six Indian states that have both a lower and upper chambers like the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha of Parliament.
In fact, Kumar contested his first assembly election in 1977 as a candidate of the erstwhile Janata Dal from the Harnaut constituency, but lost the election. After a gap of nine years, he contested the seat again in 1985 and won.
To be sure, Nitish Kumar is not the lone chief minister who opted for the Upper house route. Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath too are members of the legislative councils of their states.
A senior JD (U) functionary said that keeping in view his larger responsibilities as party chief and head of the state government during assembly elections, Nitish Kumar stays away from contesting a seat. “He is the face of the JD (U) and the Bihar government. In the elections, he has to campaign across the state. If he contests from a particular seat, he has to invariably spend more time on his own seat. For the larger gain of JD (U), he refrains from contesting polls,” said the leader, who requested anonymity.
His party colleagues argue that Kumar’s mass appeal is underlined by the fact that he won six Lok Sabha elections from 1989 (9th Lok Sabha) to 2004 (14th Lok Sabha) before he returned to lead the Bihar government in 2005.
At the national-level, too, there are a few examples of Prime Ministers occupying seats in the Rajya Sabha. While former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh had all along been a Rajya Sabha member (he lost from south Delhi in a Lok Sabha election), his predecessor IK Gujral was PM as a member of the Upper house. Long ago, when Indira Gandhi became the PM for the first time, she too was a Rajya Sabha member.
Many Lok Sabha and assembly members have claimed that elections to the lower house are more politically significant because they involve direct elections by the people. But over time, it has become clear that members of the Upper house wield as much political authority and clout. Even in the current government, two senior ministers, Nirmala Sitharaman and S Jaishankar are members of the Rajya Sabha.
Nitish Kumar has been re-elected twice to the legislative council, a record for a CM.