PATNA: Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar is set to embark on yet another statewide tour to keep in touch with the masses . The 42-day tour, christened ‘Vikas Yatra’ (development tour), is going to be Kumar’s tenth such travel programme in the 12 years he has been in power in the state.
To be undertaken in seven phases, the tour will begin from East Champaran on December 7 and conclude on January 18, taking Kumar to each of Bihar’s 38 districts at least twice.
Coming four months after he walked out of the grand alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress to form a new government in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the tour is replete with political implications.
While both Kumar and his aides claim the CM wants to have a “first-hand assessment” of the development schemes launched by his government, sources in the ruling JD(U) and the BJP admit that he aims at regaining lost ground by renewing his connection with the people.
“Unlike many other leaders, Nitish Kumar is not afraid of facing the people. He constantly undertakes such long tours throughout Bihar to meet people and have a first-hand assessment of their problems,” said JD(U) MLC and spokesperson Neeraj Kumar.
Apart from facing the emotive “betrayal of mandate” charge for ditching the grand alliance midway 20 months after the 2015 Assembly polls, Kumar has been under attack from the Opposition for a number of scams and corruption allegations that surfaced in the past four months.
The `1,200-crore Srijan NGO scam that originated in Bhagalpur district, the Rs 14-crore toilet construction scam, unabated flow of smuggled liquor despite prohibition and a perceptible rise in crime have given the RJD, the main Opposition party, a handle to beat Kumar’s government with.
The revolt by rebel JD(U) leader and socialist veteran Sharad Yadav has added to Kumar’s worries. As an unrelenting Sharad, whose claim for the JD(U)’s official ‘arrow’ electoral symbol was rejected by the Election Commission, plans to hold a number of public meetings in Bihar in the coming two months.
Sharad, who represented Madhepura Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar four times, is also readying to field candidates in the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and 2020 Assembly polls.
Another worry for the JD(U) has been the continuing popularity of RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav, who served as deputy chief minister under Kumar in the erstwhile grand alliance government.
The 29-year-old Tejaswi, who is RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s younger son, was recently declared by the party as the Opposition’s chief ministerial candidate for the 2020 Assembly polls.
“This so-called ‘Vikas Yatra’ is a ruse by Nitish Kumar to cover up the scams and cases of corruption that have surfaced in his tenure. This will be the last yatra of his tenure. He is not going to return to power again,” Tejaswi said.