Senior JD(U) leader and Bihar Energy Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav is everything that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar seeks to showcase his administration as: inclusive, non-corrupt and governance-oriented. A socialist leader who is a product of the JP Movement, with a clean image and good administrative skills, Yadav, 64, is among the senior-most ministers of the Nitish government and a key campaigner for his party.
He is also a showcase of “inclusivity” for Nitish in a party that has largely been identified as a broad coalition of non-Yadav backward castes and non-Paswan Dalits. Coming from the Supaul-Madhepura belt, he also represents a region that has been the electoral stage of other tall Yadav leaders — Sharad Yadav to Lalu Prasad. A popular political slogan in Bihar goes, “Vatican Pope ka, Madhepura Gope ka (Vatican is lorded by Pope and Madhepura is lorded by Yadavs)”. Bijendra has himself never lost from his constituency of Supaul since 1990, first as a candidate of the Janata Party and then the JD(U).
Nitish Kumar: The man for all seasons
Sources say Nitish trusts Bijendra with both political and administrative decisions; and it helps that he is not ambitious enough to challenge his leadership. “He was part of the seat-sharing negotiations between the BJP and JD(U) when the LJP walked out of the alliance. He was also instrumental in creating enough pressure to make the BJP publicly announce that Nitish Kumar would be CM even if the BJP got more seats,” a party leader said.
Nitish has trusted Yadav with key Ministries throughout his regime. As Minister in-charge of the Excise and Prohibition Department, as well as of Energy currently, Bijendra has overseen two of the biggest “achievements” the Nitish government lays claim to. He has earlier too held portfolios of the two Ministries apart from that of Water Resources. In 2014, when Nitish resigned as CM, he handed over the portfolio of Ministry of Finance to Yadav which he held till 2015. Till then the ministry had been with Nitish.
Incidentally, Bijendra was once considered very close to Sharad Yadav. But when the veteran leader was sidelined in the JD(U), he switched loyalties to Nitish.
In most of his poll speeches, Bijendra focuses on governance and administration, telling a rally in Katihar recently, “If you do not vote in favour of development, no leader in the future will give priority to development work.”
Two years ago, in the same district, he had refused to wear a skull cap at an event organised by the Muslim community.