Nitish Kumar was elected chief minister of Bihar, India's poorest state, in December 2005, when the state's government was weighed down by two decades of institutional decline. He inherited a paralyzed administration, an unmotivated bureaucracy and a state that could not adequately respond to the needs of its people. His program of administrative reforms loosened the political stranglehold on the bureaucracy, decentralized authority within administrative hierarchies and brought government closer to citizens. By 2009, Bihar was seen as a pioneer among Indian states in some areas of administrative reform, especially in improving government accountability by implementing citizens' rights to information. Two separate memos, "Coalition Building in a Divided Society" and "Clearing the Jungle Raj," describe Kumar's efforts to build a coalition for reform and to improve law and order in Bihar, respectively.
Rohan Mukherjee drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Patna, Bihar, in July 2009. Two separate case studies, "Coalition Building in a Divided Society" and "Clearing the Jungle Raj," describe Kumar's efforts to build a coalition for reform and reduce criminal activity, respectively.