Nitish Kumar back in NDA; takes oath as Bihar CM for record ninth time
Kumar’s latest crossover, his fifth in a little over a decade, capped days of high political drama and blame game. It is also seen as a big setback for the opposition unity ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Kumar was administered the oath of office by Bihar Governor Rajendra Arlekar at Raj Bhavan in the evening in the presence of senior leaders, including BJP national president J P Nadda, hours after he resigned from the post, saying “things were not working well” for him in the Grand Alliance and the opposition bloc.
BJP leaders — Samrat Choudhary and former Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha- were among those who took oath of office. The two are named as Deputy Chief Ministers by Kumar.
After the swearing-in ceremony, Kumar told reporters:”I have come back where I was earlier. Now there is no question of going back. Today eight people have been sworn in, including Choudhary and Sinha, both of whom shall be my deputies”.
Earlier, Choudhary and Sinha were named as leader and deputy leader, respectively, of the BJP legislature party. The appointment of the two indicated the BJP’s attempt to strengthen its traditional upper caste base and also reach out to the OBCs.
The two leaders thanked the party’s top leadership for the opportunity and vowed to “protect Bihar from the jungle raj unleashed by Lalu Prasad’s RJD”.
JD(U) members Vijay Kumar Choudhary, Vijendra Yadav and Shrawan Kumar also took oath apart from former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustan Awam Morcha’s Santosh Kumar Suman and independent legislator Sumit Singh.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Kumar and his two deputies.
The newly sworn-in NDA government in Bihar will leave no stone unturned for the state’s development and to fulfil people’s aspirations, Modi said on X and added that he was confident that the new government in Bihar will serve the people with full dedication.
Notably, no leader of the RJD, the single largest party in the assembly, was present at the ceremony.
Prasad’s son Tejashwi Yadav, who was the Deputy CM until Kumar walked out of the alliance, said “The JD(U) will be destroyed in the upcoming assembly polls”.
“The game is not over for us. The game has just begun”, said the young leader.
His elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav, also a former minister, and Singapore-based elder sister Rohini Acharya came out with a flurry of posts on X, lampooning the JD(U) president, whom they likened to a “chameleon”.
Senior Congress leader and former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Singh Baghel told reporters in Purnea: “Nitish Kumar has committed political suicide. This will be proven in the days to come”.
Baghel, whose party was a junior partner in the Mahagathbandhan government, was in the Bihar district to oversee preparations for the Rahul Gandhi-led “Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra”, scheduled to enter the state on Monday from the Kishanganj district.
The CPI(ML) Liberation, which supported the Mahagathbandhan government from the 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, saying “switching sides has become part of his politics” and added that the BJP might end up paying “a huge price” for supporting the JD(U) chief who had ditched it in August 2020.
At the swearing-in ceremony, BJP national president J P Nadda had brought along Chirag Paswan, a staunch NDA ally but a vocal critic of Kumar, in a gesture that appeared to be aimed at placating the fears of smaller coalition partners.
Another small NDA ally Upendra Kushwaha, who has floated a new party after having quit the JD(U) a year ago, told reporters in Karakat “Nitish Kumar is my big brother but he had chosen the wrong path. Now he is back on the right track”.
Later, Nadda, who was seen holding a long chat with Kumar after the oath-taking ceremony, held a press conference and said the JD(U) president was a “natural” alliance partner and expressed confidence that the NDA would sweep the Lok Sabha polls, winning all the 40 seats in Bihar.
The BJP president also mocked the opposition bloc INDIA, of which Kumar was seen as a key figure till Friday. The front stands for “bhrashtachar bachao, parivar bachao”( protect corruption and save the family), he said.
After submitting his resignation earlier, Kumar told reporters: “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”, Kumar said.
Kumar had resigned 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 and Congress.
Kumar had first taken oath as the state’s Chief Minister in 2000. However, his government fell within a week. He again became CM in 2005 and also returned to power five years later.
After his breakup with BJP in 2013, Kumar still survived in power as the JD(U), which was then just a few members short of the majority mark, got outside support from parties like Congress and CPI, besides a disgruntled faction of the RJD.
A year later, though, he stepped down owning moral responsibility for the JD(U)’s drubbing in Lok Sabha elections.
In less than a year, he was back as Chief Minister, elbowing out his rebellious protege Jitan Ram Manjhi, this time armed with ample support from the RJD and the Congress.
The Grand Alliance that came into being with JD(U), Congress and RJD coming together, won the 2015 assembly polls handsomely but came apart in just two years.
Kumar returned to the NDA in 2017, hoping to get some traction after taking a stand against corruption taint on his then deputy Tejashwi Yadav.
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.
The RJD (79) along with the Congress (19) and the Left parties (16) have a combined 114 MLAs, eight short of a majority.