Nitish Splits With Ally BJP; Stakes Claim As Grand Alliance Government Chief Minister

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.

His 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.

During the first meeting with Chauhan, he informed him that the decision to sever ties with the NDA was taken by his party, the JD(U).

After meeting Chauhan, Kumar went to the residence of former chief minister Rabri Devi to confabulate with RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.

Later, he called on the governor again and staked claim to form the government after getting the support of Mahagathbandhan constituents – the RJD, Left parties and the Congress.

He had deserted the NDA for the first time in 2013 after Narendra Modi became the coalition’s Prime Ministerial candidate.

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.

A meeting of the RJD-led Grand Alliance, also comprising the Left and the Congress, took place at Rabri Devi’s house, across the street from the chief minister’s residence.

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.

CPIML (Liberation) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya had told PTI on Monday the crux of the row between JD(U) and BJP also stemmed from the recent statement by J P Nadda, president of the saffron party, who said regional parties “have no future”.

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.

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