Nitish Kumar becomes Bihar CM for record 9th time with BJP support

Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar took an oath as Bihar’s chief minister for a record ninth time by joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance on Sunday, January 28.

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This comes after the JD(U) severed ties with the opposition INDIA bloc, thereby getting out of the alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav-led RJD and the Congress in the state.

A total of 8 leaders took oath as cabinet ministers in the new government led by Nitish Kumar. Three from BJP – Samrat Choudhary, Vijay Kumar Sinha, and Prem Kumar. Three from JDU – Vijay Kumar Choudhary, Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Shrawon Kumar, and Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) President Santosh Kumar Suman and independent MLA Sumit Kumar Singh took oath as ministers.

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Things were working with Mahagathbandhan: Nitish

Bringing closure to the fast-unravelling political events earlier in the day, Nitish handed his resignation letter to Governor Rajendra Arlekar along with letters of support from the BJP legislators.

After tendering his resignation in the morning, Nitish Kumar said that “things were not working well” for him in the Mahagathbandhan and the opposition bloc INDIA, and staked claim to form a new government with the BJP, which he had dumped less than 18 months ago.

At the state BJP office, party MLAs unanimously accepted a proposal “to support the JD(U) and party leaders Samrat Choudhary and former Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha, who were named as leader and deputy leader, respectively, of the legislature party, accompanied Kumar to Raj Bhavan to stake claim.

Prasad’s son Tejashwi Yadav was the Deputy CM in the outgoing government and his Singapore-based elder sister Rohini Acharya came out with a flurry of posts on X, lampooning the JD(U) president whom she did not mention by name.

Tejashwi’s elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav was also a cabinet minister.

The RJD, despite having the largest number of 79 MLAs in Bihar assembly, including Awadh Bihari Chaudhary, who is the Speaker, seemed unwilling to stake claim.

RJD projects Tejashwi Yadav

The party seems to have latched on to the opportunity for projecting the image of Tejashwi Yadav. Full page advertisements saying “Dhanyawad (thank you) Tejashwi” were put out in newspapers here by the party which showered encomiums on the 34 years old leader for having played his role well since becoming the Deputy CM in August, 2022.

The CPI(ML) Liberation, which supported the Mahagathbandhan government from outside, launched a blistering attack on Kumar, accusing him of “betrayal”. In an acerbic Facebook post, the party’s general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya alleged that Kumar, “who has had the longest stint as CM”, will be used by the RSS-BJP combine “as its pawn”.

Political strategist turned politician Prashant Kishor also took a swipe at Kumar but added that the BJP might end up paying “a huge price” for supporting the JD(U) chief who had ditched it in August, 2020.

Earlier, Kumar, while returning from Raj Bhavan, a stone’s throw from his official residence, had told reporters “I have submitted my resignation to the Governor. The government that was in place now comes to an end. I have let it go”.

The 72-year-old leader indicated that he was not feeling happy with the way things were in the Mahagathbandhan in the state as well as the INDIA bloc that he helped take shape but which failed to adequately recognise his efforts.

“You all know how I came to this alliance and also how I worked to bring together so many parties. But of late things were not working well. It was not going down well with those in my party as well”, said Kumar.

He also made an indirect reference to the deafening silence he had maintained over the political turmoil that had engulfed the state for the past few days, leaving his allies wondering about his current move.

Kumar took the step after a meeting of the JD(U) legislature party, which authorised him to take any decision about the alliance.

Kumar had joined the Mahagathbandhan in August 2022, when he had snapped ties with the BJP accusing it of trying to “split” his JD(U). He formed a new government with a multi-party coalition that included RJD, Congress and three Left parties.

Nitish first became CM in 2000

Kumar first took oath as the state’s chief minister in 2000, when his government fell within a week. He was back as CM in 2005, and returned to power five years later.

In May, 2014, he stepped down but returned eight months later, elbowing out his then prot g Jitan Ram Manjhi and was back as CM in November, 2015, when the coalition of JD(U), RJD and Congress won the assembly elections.

In 2017, he resigned, only to form a new government with the BJP in less than years and returned as CM after the 2020 assembly polls, which the NDA won but in which the JD(U) performed badly.

In the current 243-member Bihar Assembly, JD(U) has 44 MLAs and the BJP 78. Kumar also has the support of one Independent member. Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha, which is already a part of the NDA, has four MLAs.

RJD (79) along with the Congress (19) and the Left parties (16) have a combined 114 MLAs, eight short of a majority.

(With excerpts from PTI)


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