Nitish Kumar would be sworn in for the record eighth time as Bihar chief minister at 2 PM on Wednesday with support from a new set of allies – RJD, Congress and the Left parties – after he decided to break alliance with the BJP and resign as the head of a coalition government with that party.
During the course of the day, Kumar met Governor Phagu Chauhan twice; first to resign as the chief minister of the JD(U)-BJP coalition government, and a second time to stake claim to form a government with the support of 164 MLAs belonging to seven parties, including the RJD, Congress and the Left.
Kumar gave a list of supporting MLAs to the Governor. The Governor invited him to form a new government on Wednesday.
After putting in his paper as the chief minister, Nitish Kumar drove straight to former chief minister Rabri Devi’s house to discuss the formation of a new government with Rabri’s son and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav. Discussions were also held with leaders of the Congress and Left parties.
The decision to break the alliance with the BJP was taken at a meeting of JD(U) MPs and MLAs at Patna.
Party leaders said that the chief minister had received reports that their coalition partner BJP was attempting to break the JD(U) MLAs to form a government minus Nitish Kumar.
“Our leader Nitish Kumar has nipped the BJP’s ‘Operation Kamal’ in the bud. It was the chief minister’s alacrity that prevented the BJP from seizing power by breaking the JD(U) legislature party,” said a senior JD(U) leader.
The first indication of JD(U)-BJP relations going irreconcilably bad came on Monday when the JD(U) president Rajiv Ranjan Singh lashed out at the BJP for breaching the coalition dharma by trying to defeat JD(U) candidates by using what he termed as the “Chirag model” where candidates belonging to Ramvilas Paswan’s son Chirag Paswan’s party were reportedly sponsored by the BJP against JD(U) candidates.
Singh said the JD(U) survived that attack “but a fresh attempt is being made to damage our party.” JD(U) leaders said that the BJP was using former Union minister RCP Singh to split the JD(U).
Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal accused Nitish Kumar of betraying the mandate of the 2020 assembly polls, and claimed that he will be “punished by the people of Bihar”.
Kumar’s move was a reversal of his flip in 2017 when he left the Mahagathbandhan to rejoin the NDA.
He had earlier deserted the NDA in 2013 after Narendra Modi was declared the Prime Ministerial candidate. This is the second time Nitish has left the BJP out in the cold in the last nine years.
The Bihar assembly has an effective strength of 242 MLAs. The new coalition requires 121 MLAs for a majority.
The RJD has the highest number of 79 MLAs followed by the BJP (77) and the JD(U) with 44. The JD(U) also enjoys the support of four MLAs of former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha and one Independent.
The Congress has 19 MLAs while the CPIML(L) has 12 and CPI and CPI(M) have two each. Besides, one MLA belongs to Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM.
The political development in Bihar would have a big impact on the next Lok Sabha elections. CPIML(L) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said that with the new alignment of forces in Bihar, the state, which sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha, would be the main battleground in the 2024 general elections. The BJP-JD(U) alliance had won 39 out of the 40 seats in the 2019 elections.
Bhattacharya said the BJP always had a dim view of its allies. He said BJP president J P Nadda’s recent statement that “regional parties have no future” reflects the party’s views.
Tejashwi Yadav said history shows that the BJP has destroyed all its allies.