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Saturday, October 24, 2020

The rise and rise of Nityanand Rai

Amit Shah's No.2, Nityanand Rai is BJP's Yadav face in Bihar, heads its 70-member poll panel, and proved his worth in a Lalu bastion

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna | Updated: October 15, 2020 8:40:03 am
Nityanand Rai has been associated with the Sangh Parivar since 1981, joining the ABVP that year as a student activist. (Illustration: Suvajit Dey)

Campaigning for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Ujiarpur constituency in Bihar’s Samastipur district, then BJP national president Amit Shah promised “giving some important” job to BJP candidate Nityanand Rai if he won and the NDA returned to power. Shah kept his word, making Rai a Minister of State in the Union Home Ministry. From just another BJP MLA until 2010, Rai became Shah’s official deputy last year. His meteoric rise has stunned all.

Rai, 54, has emerged as the BJP’s Yadav face and its leading contender for chief minister’s chair, should it come to that, in Bihar, where traditionally the saffron party has been associated with upper castes and Yadavs have supported Lalu Prasad’s RJD.

The son of a farmer, Rai has been associated with the Sangh Parivar since 1981, joining the ABVP that year as a student activist. He attended RSS shakhas while doing his graduation from R N College in Hajipur, and first caught the attention of BJP patriarch Kailashpati Mishra, who noticed and groomed him.

Eventually, Rai would end the Congress’s influence in the area, and repeatedly won the Hajipur Lok Sabha seat between 2000 and 2010. The wins particularly counted as Hajipur is a constituency surrounded by RJD bastions Raghopur (Rabri Devi’s three-time winning seat until 2010), and Mahua, Sonepur and Parsa (the last two constituencies represented by Lalu).

In 2014, Rai contested from Ujiarpur and again won, in an election that the BJP had swept in the state, winning 31 of 40 seats.

In 2016, Shah chose Rai to head the state BJP, the first time the party had chosen an OBC leader after continuous terms at the top of upper-caste leaders like Radha Mohan Singh, Dr C P Thakur and Mangal Pandey.

Having affirmed his position among leaders such as Sushil Kumar Modi, Prem Kumar, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Nand Kishore Yadav and Giriraj Singh in the Bihar BJP, Rai is now the lead face among the second-generation party leaders in the state, ready to take over from the older clique.

Last month, the BJP appointed him head of the 70-member election steering committee for the polls. Rai is also the chairman-cum-convenor of the committee.

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