Bihar: Arun Jaitley's Protege Is Now Working President Of Nitish Kumar's JDU

Abhishek Kumar

Jul 01, 2024, 02:00 PM | Updated 02:04 PM IST

Sanjay Kumar Jha with Arun Jaitley (right)
Sanjay Kumar Jha with Arun Jaitley (right)
  • For many, Sanjay Kumar Jha’s appointment may be interpreted as a formal indication by Nitish Kumar that the JD(U) might merge with the BJP after him.
  • Sanjay Kumar Jha, a senior leader of Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)), has been appointed as the working president of the party. The decision was made at the national executive meeting of the party in Delhi.

    Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar and JD(U) president, forwarded Jha's name for the post.

    Jha has served as the national general secretary of the party since 2017. Given a Rajya Sabha seat in April this year, he soon took charge as the leader of the party in the upper house of Parliament.

    With Jha’s appointment, Kumar has checked multiple necessary boxes at once. A key reason behind Jha’s elevation is his closeness to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a JD(U) ally in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

    A postgraduate in medieval history from Jawaharlal Nehru University and an editor of a magazine, Jha’s first active political connection was with Rajiv Pratap Rudy, the current Saran Member of Parliament (MP).

    Between 2001 and 2004, Jha worked as an associate and later media advisor for Rudy, who was a union minister of state in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

    He joined the BJP and became a member of the legislative council (MLC) in 2006, a position he maintained for 18 years until his elevation to the Rajya Sabha.

    In 2009, he demanded a Lok Sabha ticket from Darbhanga but could not get it. He joined the JD(U) in 2012 and contested from Darbhanga in the 2014 general election, but lost.

    Even after joining the JD(U), Jha maintained his relations with the late Arun Jaitley, former law and finance minister of India. He is considered a protege of Jaitley. It helped him stay close to the BJP leadership even after the JD(U) left the coalition.

    In the JD(U), Jha has worked on two fronts — spearheading developmental work and ensuring his increasing clout is not perceived as a threat by Kumar.

    In the Kumar government, he handled key portfolios like water resources, information, and public relations. His flood control measures turned out to be revolutionary in recent Bihar history.

    The Ganga Water Supply Scheme to transport Ganga water from abundant areas to relatively dry ones like Nawad, Gaya, and Nalanda was implemented under his leadership.

    For flood-prone areas of Madhubani and Darbhanga, Jha spearheaded efforts that proved successful. His deployment of technical teams from renowned institutes drew applause from everyone — the public, bureaucrats, media, and colleagues.

    He has also been a key figure in the renovation of ghats, along with bringing in key infrastructure projects like the Darbhanga airport and the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to his native Mithila region.

    Jha has made sure not to hog the limelight and credits Kumar for the projects as well. In this way, he has ensured he doesn't come across like other senior party leaders — Lalan Singh, Prashant Kishor, and RCP Singh — do. These other leaders are believed to have made attempts to overpower Kumar in JD(U).

    While Kishor and RCP Singh are out of the party, Lalan Singh has been sent to the union ministry. Meanwhile, Jha has been handed a key position within the party.

    In his decade-long flip-flops, whenever Kumar has wanted to return to the NDA fold, the onus to get it done and ensure Kumar retained the chief minister's post has lied with Jha. Owing to his closeness to the BJP, Jha is said to have negotiated on behalf of Kumar.

    On the electoral front, Jha’s elevation is crucial. Because of the caste census and demand for proportionate reservation, the Kumar government has become quite unpopular among general category voters, who make up 15.52 per cent of Bihar's population (according to the latest caste survey). Jha, a leading Brahmin face, is expected to quell some anger.

    However, for many, Jha’s appointment may be interpreted as a formal indication by Kumar that the JD(U) might merge with the BJP after him — a speculation that has been making the rounds in Bihar’s power corridor in the last five years.

    Abhishek is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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