Nitish Kumar is back as Bihar Chief Minister. He took oath as the CM of the state for the sixth time, and this came just 14 hours after his resignation from the position last evening. While Kumar ended a 2-year-old alliance with RJD and Congress, he got back with BJP. Meanwhile, Sushil Modi got his old post of Deputy CM back and other ministers will take oath once Kumar wins the trust vote on Saturday. The latest developments in Bihar show that Congress has failed to prevail upon the problems in the grand alliance in Bihar and to resolve the issues. The mounting tensions between JDU and RJD over Lalu Yadav’s son Tejashwi Yadav’s corruption cases led to a bitter parting of ways. Meanwhile, BJP which was trounced in Bihar barely 20 months ago despite being resurgent across the country, joined the government there with JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar is a massive psychological and sociological gain. The benefits of this will continue to flow for the new government. Here are 5 reasons why the BJP-JD(U) alliance is here for the long run:
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) led by Lalu Prasad Yadav is the largest party with 80 MLAs in Bihar Assembly. The Bihar Assembly has 243 members. But 80 is too less. It needed Janata Dal’s 71 MLAs if Lalu Yadav wanted to be a king maker. Meanwhile, BJP has 53 seats and Congress has 27 seats in the fragmented Assembly in Bihar. Any party which wants to form a government has to cross the mark of 123. BJP and JDU together have 124, and with more smaller parties in the picture, they are way comfortably above the mark. Alternatively, RJD, despite being a bigger party, cannot gather more than 123 seats. Together with Congress, it can only manage 107.
The unravelling of the grand alliance in Bihar has dealt a body blow to the efforts being made by the Congress leadership. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi wanted to use the alliance to found a broader democratic coalition of like-minded opposition parties to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, but that dream has been shattered now. Meanwhile, the opposition is already mired in alleged corruption charges and scandals. Earlier this month, the Yadavs were accused of corruption stemming from Lalu Yadav’s term as Railways Minister and their home was raided. Nitish Kumar dropped broad hints that RJD should resolve the issue with Tejashwi Yadav, but Lalu Yadav remained adamant that Tejashwi would not quit – Nitish has clarified that he had not asked anyone to quit. This was the death knell for RJD. With more charges against Lalu Yadav, it would be very difficult for the party to come in the way of a strong alliance right now. There is basically a disarray in the Opposition ranks which is struggling to work out a coherent pitch against Narendra Modi at the national level.
While JDU has worked with BJP before in Bihar, this is the first time Centre and State is in tandem. This will be a major boost for Bihar, as Nitish Kumar has long been vocal towards the required support from the Central government. Last month, Nitish Kumar abandoned his allies and other parties to side with the BJP in the election for President of India. He said the opposition which has formed an 18-party league was “in a mess” thanks largely to the Congress. He also broke ranks with the opposition to first support PM Modi’s sudden ban of high-value notes and then the launch of the Goods and Services Tax or GST. This essentially means that the ideologies are in sync at the moment and will continue to remain so.
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A few weeks ago, Nitish was considered the tallest potential challenger of Modi, one who is untainted with charges of political corruption or nepotism. But now, his shift after corruption charges in RJD, as well as the state wide alcohol ban and several other measures have given him more respect in the eyes of the public. Also, Modi does not have any immediate threat from him. The power shift in Patna will set off ripples far beyond the political boundaries of Bihar that will touch the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Kumar’s popularity among non-Yadav OBCs and poor sections in Bihar will only add to Modi’s aggressive pitch among these sections.
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In 2013, Nitish Kumar had ended a 17-year alliance with the BJP over its decision to promote Modi as its prime minister candidate. In 2015, he tied up with the Congress and former rival Lalu Yadav to block PM Modi from winning Bihar for the BJP. But now, the BJP-Nitish alliance is a return of the formidable social alliance of upper castes and non-Yadav OBCs that had relegated Lalu Prasad’s Muslim-Yadav combination to a meagre 22 Assembly seats in the 243-member Bihar House in the elections of 2010. His government then became quite popular because of the development work done in the state. For the BJP, an alliance with the JD(U) almost secures a potential sweep of 2019 Lok Sabha elections after its humiliating defeat in 2015 state poll.