Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has tasted defeat at the hands of K J Rao, consultant to the Election Commission, not in electoral politics, but in the popularity charts. At least, according to an online survey by a news portal in Patna.
K J Rao, 63, was chosen as Bihar's hero of 2005 ahead of Nitish Kumar, 54 in an online poll conducted by Bihartimes.com, whose readers had to choose from among half a dozen people who tried to make a change in Bihar.
"Rao was chosen Bihar's hero of the year for making history in conducting peaceful, violence-free and trouble-free elections in the state for the first time," said Ajay Kumar, CEO, bihartimes.com.
Elections in Bihar are usually associated with large-scale violence and rigging, and it was thanks largely to Rao that the recent polls were largely violence-free.
In the assembly polls in February this year, 20 people lost their lives in poll-related violence; in 2000, 48 people were killed and 150 people injured.
But in the October round of polling, which saw Nitish Kumar trounce the Rashtriya Janata Dal, 17 people were killed and 60 injured.
Naturally, Rao was chosen hero of the year by 62 per cent of Bihartimes.com's readers while Nitish Kumar was backed by 29 per cent of the readers.
Altogether 1,155 people participated in the online survey which lasted for more than a fortnight.
Among the others who were in the running for the honour were C K Anil, a young Indian Administrative Service officer who ordered the externment of RJD member of Parliament Mohammed Shahabuddin. Anil's colleague, Superintendent of Police of Siwan Ratan Sanjay also figured in the list. The latter raided Shahabuddin's premises and recovered arms and ammunitions. To a large extent, he made Siwan, known for mafia activities, a crime-free district.
Other civil servants in the running for hero of the year award included K K Pathak, who externed the powerful RJD MP Sadhu Yadav from Gopalgunj and refused to kowtow to politicians; N K Sinha, who was instrumental in conducting the assembly poll. The Election Commission was so impressed with his work that he was sent to Kazakhstan to conduct the elections there; Patna Municipal Commissioner K P Ramaiah, who took on the challenge of making Patna a clean and beautiful city and succeeded to a great extent.
Bihartimes.com also simultaneously conducted an opinion poll for 'zero of the year' award for those who miserably failed in discharging their duties. The most remarkable failure, of course, was none other than Lalu Prasad, chosen Bihar's zero no. 1. Another politician who ranked poorly was Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, the self-styled kingmaker of Bihar who flopped miserably this time round.
The biggest failure of the year was Governor Buta Singh, who recommended the dissolution of the state assembly in February without giving Nitish Kumar a chance to prove his majority.
The list of super flops of 2005 includes former chief minister Rabri Devi, controversial former district magistrate of Patna, Gautam Goswami, and the absconding RJD MP Jai Prakash Yadav who was accused of forcibly releasing his younger brother from police custody in Jamui.