The unanimous resolution passed by the Bihar Assembly against the new format of NPR and NRC with more than 50 BJP MLAs in tow has thrown the opposition Grand Alliance in disarray.
Jitan Ram Manjhi, a bete noire of Kumar, appeared bowled over by Kumar’s move as the former told reporters outside the Assembly on Wednesday, “He (Kumar) is most welcome to return to the Grand Alliance.. there will be no confusion over leadership if he comes back. He will be the obvious choice.”
The Bihar Assembly had on Tuesday passed a unanimous resolution categorically stating that there is no need of NRC in the state and that the National Population Register (NPR) exercise be done strictly according to the 2010 format.
The all-party resolution got the approval of the legislative assembly in the post-lunch session following a debate on the adjournment motion moved by leader of the opposition Tejashwi Yadav and others in the House.
Bihar is the first NDA-ruled state to categorically say no to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and stating that the National Population Register (NPR) exercise be done as per the 2010 format.
The sudden development also seems to have bewildered the BJP, which is part of the ruling coalition in the state, with some of its leaders asserting that the resolution will take the wind out of the sails of the opposition, which had been sharpening its attack against the government on the emotive issue.
Another section within the saffron party has been left wondering as to whether such a move was tantamount to a change in the party’s stand.
Congress MLA Awadhesh Singh echoed the sentiments of Manjhi, saying, “We know that Nitish Kumar is a secular leader who has his roots in the socialist movement. We would be happy if he leaves the NDA and comes back.”
The RJD, headed by its jailed founder Lalu Prasad Yadav, was, however, not impressed by showering of praises on Kumar.
Lalu’s wife and RJD national vice president Rabri Devi, who is also the leader of the opposition in the legislative council said, “We are not going to have any change of mind (about Nitish Kumar).”
Notably, a couple of hours before the resolution was passed, her son Tejashwi Yadav, who is the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, had a 20-minutes long meeting with the chief minister inside Kumar’s chamber in the Vidhan Sabha premises.
The young RJD leader has been celebrating the resolution as a “success” of the opposition in Bihar in making the BJP retreat despite its central leadership’s insistence on “not yielding an inch” on the NCR-NPR issue.
Congress MLC Prem Chandra Mishra, who is also an AICC panelist, also took a sceptical view of Tuesday’s development and said, “Nitish Kumar should explain how come he can go on supporting the CAA while being opposed to NPR and NRC. All the three issues are connected.”
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was supported by the JD(U) in parliament.
The chief minister has, however, remained steadfast in his opposition to a countrywide NRC.
Regarding the NPR, the JD(U) leader had agreed that additional clauses like places of birth of parents were causing anxieties among the people and got his MPs to request the Centre for dropping these besides writing on the issue himself, much before the resolution was passed.
The alliance partner BJP, which has felt hamstrung under the shadow of the chief minister, has emerged a confused lot.
Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi wrote on Twitter that the resolution should “silence the opposition trying to reap political benefits out of rumour-mongering on NRC and NPR”.
BJP MLC Sachchidanand Rai, one of the known detractors of Kumar, was visibly peeved when he told a news channel, “I wonder if the party’s central leadership was seized of the matter.”
State minister Vijay Kumar Sinha, who was in the House when the resolution was passed said, “It would have been better had the members been informed about the resolution in advance.”
With the deft move, the chief minister also appears to have won back the respect of election strategist Prashant Kishor, a staunch opponent of CAA-NPR-NRC, who was recently sacked from the party and had accused Kumar of capitulation before the BJP for continuance in power in Bihar.
In a tweet, Kishor thanked Kumar for standing his ground on NPR and NRC, and expressed hope that he would rise to the many challenges that he might face as the chief minister of Bihar.
The JD(U) camp appeared in a state of quiet jubilation with its rank and file speaking in hushed tones that with assembly polls not more than nine months away, their leader, often called the “Chanakya of Bihar politics”, will have the last laugh.