Manish Kumar Verma Ticks All Boxes To Become Nitish Kumar's Successor Except One — Politics

Nishtha Anushree

Jul 09, 2024, 04:26 PM | Updated 05:05 PM IST

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, left, and Manish Kumar Verma.
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, left, and Manish Kumar Verma.

Manish Kumar Verma, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, is poised to join Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) today (9 July). This move has sparked speculation about his potential as the successor to Kumar.

While most news portals reported that after winning Kumar's trust, Verma may also succeed him, there are other JD(U) leaders set to give Verma tough competition in taking over the party.

The foremost among them is Sanjay Kumar Jha, the working president of the JD(U) and Rajya Sabha MP. Jha began his political career by becoming a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC).

He soon won the trust of Kumar and served as a minister in his cabinet by heading various departments for several years.

After serving three terms as Bihar MLC, he was sent to Rajya Sabha earlier this year. He passed on his responsibility as Water Resources Minister to Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, another candidate for the top post of the party.

While Chaudhary does not enjoy as large a clout as Jha in the party, he too is one of the most-trusted confidants of Kumar. He was appointed a cabinet minister after the 2020 assembly elections.

Earlier, he served as a cabinet minister from 2010 to 2015 and then as Bihar assembly speaker from 2015 to 2020. He is Sarairanjan (in Samstipur district) MLA since 2010.

Another contender to become Kumar's successor is the party's former national president R C P Singh. He too is a former IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre.

After serving as the principal secretary to Kumar, Singh took voluntary retirement from the service in 2010, and was sent to the Rajya Sabha by JD(U) and stayed there till 2022.

He also served as Union minister of steel under Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a year. He joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after Kumar switched sides in 2022, but might come back to JD(U) as the party is now in BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Another former national president of JD(U), Rajeev Ranjan Singh aka Lalan Singh is also in the race to become Kumar's successor. While Kumar took over as party chief in December 2023, Singh is now a Union minister.

He earlier served as a minister in Kumar's Cabinet, when he was MLC from 2014 to 2019. He won the Lok Sabha election from Munger thrice, in 2009, 2019 and 2024, and once from Begusarai in 2004.

Last but not the least contender is Nitish Kumar's son Nishant Kumar, who is yet to make his political debut. However, media reports suggest that the Bihar Chief Minister may ask him to join the party officially.

With these contenders in the race, it is highly unlikely that Verma will be chosen as Kumar's successor directly, especially when he does not have much political experience.

It is likely that Kumar will first give him the responsibility of the party's general secretary (organisation) to test his political acumen and if he does well for the party in the 2025 assembly elections, he might become Kumar's successor.

Another factor that could help Verma in succeeding Kumar is his roots in Nalanda, the home district of the Bihar Chief Minister, and his affiliation with Kumar's caste, Kurmi.

Some media reports also call him a distant relative of Kumar. He has also served as an additional advisor to the Bihar Chief Minister after taking voluntary retirement from the service (VRS).

Verma was actually an Odisha cadre IAS officer, but came to Bihar in 2012 on deputation and served till 2018 at various positions including district magistrates of Patna and Purnia.

However, when he was called back to Odisha, he took VRS and Kumar appointed him as a member of Bihar State Disaster Management Authority. In 2022, an advisor post was created especially for him.

In the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Verma was also seen campaigning for the JD(U) but had not joined the party officially.

He fits in Kumar's 'social engineering' unlike Jha who is a Mithila Brahmin or Lalan Singh, who is a Bhumihar. R C P Singh is also a Kurmi but his chances to succeed Kumar have been reduced since he left the party.

Kumar's son also does not fit in his politics as he has been attacking dynasty politics, especially the Lalu Prasad Yadav family. By appointing his son as successor, Kumar will only invite criticisms.

Thus, Kumar is likely to place his bet on Verma but how that will turn out will be known only after the 2025 assembly elections, and the JD(U) will have to wait for a new leader till then.

Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.

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