In a day of fast-moving political developments, Bihar’s mercurial leader Nitish Kumar twice met Governor Phagu Chauhan, first to hand in his resignation as NDA chief minister and then after being elected leader of the RJD-led `Mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) to stake claim for the top job in the state once again. Kumar said he submitted a list of 164 MLAs to the governor who will decide when the oath-taking can take place. The effective strength of the state Assembly is 242 and the magic figure is 122.State BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal accused the JD(U) leader of betraying the mandate of the 2020 assembly polls, and claimed that Kumar will be “punished by the people of Bihar” for this.
Kumar’s move which was a reversal of what happened in 2017 when he left the Mahagathbandhan to rejoin the NDA, left ally BJP out in the cold for the second time in nine years. He had deserted the NDA in 2013 after Narendra Modi was made the Prime Ministerial candidate of the coalition. After a JD(U) meeting where ally BJP was accused of “backstabbing”, Kumar drove to Raj Bhavan to tender his resignation. From there, he returned to his residence, stopping for a while to inform the large posse of journalists “it was decided at the party meeting that we quit the NDA. I have, therefore, resigned as the NDA’s Chief Minister”.
Shortly afterwards, Kumar drove to the residence of former Chief Minister Rabri Devi, just across the street, where all leaders of the Grand Alliance, comprising RJD, Congress and the Left, had gathered.Kumar, who was accompanied by JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan, spent nearly half an hour at Rabri Devi’s residence. He returned along with Leader of the Opposition and his former deputy Tejashwi Yadav, who was armed with a letter of support to Kumar. About 15 minutes later, Kumar met the Governor again to stake claim for forming a new government, this time accompanied by Yadav and senior colleagues in the JD(U) besides former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi whose four MLA-strong Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) has expressed “unconditional support” to the new formation. “Nitish is the most experienced Chief Minister in the country who has taken a courageous step,” said Tejashwi Yadav.
Earlier in the day, when a meeting a JD(U) meeting was going on, senior leader Upendra Kushwaha in a tweet congratulated Kumar for leading a “new coalition in new form,” implicitly acknowledging the split and embracing the RJD-led `Mahagathbandhan’ (Grand Alliance) to continue in office. At the meeting, the CM is understood to have told party legislators and MPs that he had been driven against the wall by the BJP which tried to weaken his JD(U), first by propping up Chirag Paswan’s rebellion and later through the party’s former national president RCP Singh. Singh was made a cabinet minister at the Centre without Kumar’s explicit agreement. Consequently, when his term as a Rajya Sabha member ended, the JD(U) refused to give him another term as an MP, thus ending his stint as cabinet minister as well. Following this, rumours of a split in the JD(U) engineered by Singh’s supporters surfaced.
Relations between the BJP and the JD(U) have been worsening for quite some time in the wake of disagreements over a host of issues including caste census, population control and the ‘Agnipath’ defence recruitment scheme.The BJP, meanwhile, has gone into a huddle at the residence of Deputy CM Tarkishore Prasad, where all ministers belonging to the party besides state president Sanjay Jaiswal and other senior leaders are also present.
In the state Assembly, which has an effective strength of 242, requiring 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 an 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.