Sushil Kumar Modi (1952-2024): He Personified Perseverance, Expertise And Dignity

Adarsh Pandit

May 15, 2024, 05:01 PM | Updated 04:59 PM IST

Former deputy chief minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi.
Former deputy chief minister of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi.
  • Sushil Modi chose facts over hyperbole, tenacity over hollow outrage, and dignity over crass rhetoric.
  • It was somewhere in the mid-1990s when an unfortunate incident of murder occurred in my village.

    During those years of 'Jungle Raj', this was regular news. It hardly evoked any reaction as the victim was not from a politically important caste.

    It was raining heavily that day. In that downpour, one leader reached ground zero.

    Travelling in a rickshaw and then walking towards the house of the victim with his trousers folded above his knees, drenched in the rain — Sushil Modi appeared. He was the leader of the opposition then. That’s my very first memory of him.

    I remember my parents appreciating this gesture of his when the entire political class was only directing its focus towards vote bank politics. Anyone familiar with Bihar would know that the Marwaris are not a significant vote bank in the state. Despite that, Sushil Modi’s mission to call out the collapse of law and order in Bihar was commendable. It showed the empathy of the leader.

    Old timers would tell you that there was not even a single day when Sushil Modi would not do a press conference and expose Lalu Prasad Yadav’s administration. We know his dedication to fighting the corruption in the fodder scam. He fought it both legally as well as politically.

    He was amongst the first individuals to file a PIL (public interest litigation) in the Patna High Court against the Yadav family for their involvement in the fodder scam.

    Back in time, the same Lalu Yadav was president of Patna University student body when Modi was elected as general secretary. From fighting together against the tyranny of the state when the then prime minister imposed Emergency to fighting each other politically, he saw it all.

    From an early age, Jayaprakash Narayan used to give him important roles. He would share the stage with JP on multiple occasions and many leaders like Amit Shah and J P Nadda were his juniors. They used to sit in the crowd and listen to what Sushil Modi had to say.

    It came as no surprise that he was appointed as deputy chief minister when the first NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government was formed in Bihar.

    His contribution to the progress of the state will be talked about whenever one reads and discusses about the growth of Bihar. He took charge as the finance minister of the state where finances were chaotic, to say the least. Not only did he bring the state on the path of rapid development but he also made a robust economic plan to achieve progress in social development indicators.

    The economic indicators of Bihar always remained dismal. It was only after Sushil Modi became finance minister that Bihar for the first time in more than two decades exceeded the average national growth rate and in fact the per capita income grew at about 14 per cent which was more than double the national average. This change was not just economic and political but Bihar was now getting a reboot. Bihar was now telling a new story. 

    Another important aspect of Sushil Modi’s personality goes unnoticed.

    Bihar is a state of political rhetoric. War of words seems to overburden the political landscape. In such a state, and especially fighting a leader who used rustic language to appeal to his vote base, Modi always remained dignified.

    This is one of the prime reasons he was made the Chairman of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers on GST (goods and services tax). He was known as a consensus builder.

    He carried out relentless attacks on his opposition but never did his words carry personal angst nor did his actions suggest any rogue behaviour.

    Even in the 2020 assembly elections when Tejashwi Yadav came up with the proposition of giving 10 lakh government jobs, it was Modi who came up with the factual counters.

    He gave an extensive analysis as to why it wasn’t possible given the economy of Bihar. Such was his hold on the subject that even Chief Minister Nitish Kumar started using that data in his interviews and speeches. No other BJP leader in the state could do such a learned analysis. No doubt he stood tall amongst everyone. 

    He has left behind a legacy that will hopefully guide the new-age leaders of all the parties. Bihar lost another reasonable, dignified, and factually-grounded politician who knew his subject. In this day and age where winning an election by deceit and plain lies have become a norm in the state, Sushil Modi stood out. 

    Get Swarajya in your inbox.