Nitish Kumar switches sides yet again, takes oath as Bihar CM

JD(U) snaps ties with grand alliance in Bihar; two Deputy CMs from BJP and six Ministers sworn in; Mr. Kumar says he was acting for ‘the interest of Bihar’; RJD says ‘the game is not over yet’

January 28, 2024 10:57 pm | Updated January 29, 2024 07:09 am IST - PATNA

Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar takes oath as Chief Minister at the Raj Bhavan in Patna on January 28, 2024.

Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar takes oath as Chief Minister at the Raj Bhavan in Patna on January 28, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar took oath as Bihar Chief Minister for a record ninth time on Sunday, returning to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance just 18 months after he left it, in his fifth switch in political loyalties since 2015. Six Ministers and two Deputy Chief Ministers, both from the BJP, were also sworn in with him.

Mr. Kumar said his latest switch was “in the interest of Bihar”. The BJP said that its renewed “alliance with the JD(U) happened for the development of Bihar”. The Rashtriya Janata Dal, which Mr. Kumar has broken up with again, said, “The game is not over yet”, predicting the JD(U)‘s demise as a party.

Bihar political developments | Updates

Since November 2005, Mr. Kumar has been making repeated political turnarounds to remain the CM of Bihar, apart from a brief hiatus after his party’s poor performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

‘Fulfilling people’s aspirations’

Congratulating Mr. Kumar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on X: “The NDA government formed in Bihar will leave no stone unturned for the development of the state and to fulfil the aspirations of its people. I congratulate Nitish Kumar ji as chief minister and Samrat Choudhary ji and Vijay Kumar Sinha ji on taking oath as Deputy chief ministers.” He added: “I’m confident that this team will serve my family members of the state with full dedication.”

Mr. Choudhary has been the BJP’s State president since last year, while Mr. Sinha was the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly; both the new Deputy Chief Ministers have been sharp critics of Mr. Kumar while he was leading the magathbandhan government in alliance with the RJD and Congress, among others. The new Cabinet comprises three members each from the BJP and JD(U) — including eight-time BJP MLA from Gaya Prem Kumar, and senior JD(U) leaders Vijay Kumar Chaudhury, Bijendra Yadav and Shrawan Kumar — one Independent MLA Sumit Kumar Singh, and Santosh Kumar Suman of the Hindustani Awami Morcha (Secular).

‘In the interest of Bihar’

After they were all sworn in, Mr. Kumar told journalists that he would expand his Cabinet “soon”. He also explained the rationale behind his latest switch in loyalties. “I took this decision [to join hands with the BJP again] in the interest of Bihar. I came where I was earlier, and had gone somewhere in-between, but now got freedom from where I was. Nothing was being done there,” he said.

“Since things were not working well in the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) and no work was being done from their [RJD] side on what JD(U) was doing; after listening to everyone, I decided to dissolve this government to form the NDA government,” he told journalists earlier in the day after tendering his resignation to Governor Rajendra Viswanath Arleaker

‘JD(U) will be finished’

His spurned ally, the RJD leader and former Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, declared that “the game is not over yet…it has just started, and the JD(U) will be finished as a party in 2024 itself.” He added: “I do whatever I say… People of the State are with us.” His sister Rohini Acharya, a resident of Singapore, also made scathing social media posts criticizing Mr. Kumar with oblique references. “Garbage goes back to the dustbin. Congratulations to the dustbin for getting the slinkiest garbage,” she posted.

The BJP and JD(U) both held separate meetings of their legislature parties earlier in the day, and then joined up to present themselves as the new NDA bloc at the CM’s official residence. Mr. Kumar then headed to the Raj Bhawan to make his claim to form the new NDA government. BJP national president J.P. Nadda was present at the swearing-in ceremony, along with alliance partners such as Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) chief Chirag Paswan, Rashtriya Lok Janata Dal leader Upendra Kushwaha, and HAM(S) leader Jitan Ram Manjhi.

‘To prevent jungle raj’

These leaders have all been hammering Mr. Kumar on several issues; however, as they exited the ceremony, they claimed that the new government in Bihar has been formed for the “development of the State”.

“To prevent the return of jungle raj in Bihar and for the development of the State, we decided to come along with Nitish Kumar ji when his proposal came to us,” said Mr. Choudhury, the new Deputy CM. His fellow Deputy CM, Mr. Sinha, said he had put his faith in the PM. “For the development of Bihar, our party’s top leadership decided to form the new government in the State.”

“Now it has become a natural alliance and it will be good for Nitish Kumar ji as well,” quipped Mr. Kushwaha. “Where PM Modi will be, I too will go,” Mr. Paswan said.

‘NDA will sweep 40 LS seats’

“Whenever an NDA government was formed in Bihar, stability and pace in development have come in the State. Of late, law and order too was crumbling in the State and our alliance will now speed up development in the State” said Mr. Nadda. “Now NDA will sweep in the upcoming Lok Sabha poll and win all [40] seats in Bihar. In State Assembly elections too in 2025, our alliance will do good,” he added. Attacking the Opposition INDIA bloc, which Mr. Kumar helped forge and has now walkd out on, Mr. Nadda said: “It’s been an unholy alliance and we knew it will disintegrate. This INDIA alliance is a conceptual failure and it was formed by pariwar bachao (save family) and property bachao (save property) allies and groups of corrupt people.”

Mr. Kumar last came to power along with the BJP after the 2020 Assembly election, but then snapped his ties and instead formed the mahagathbandhan government in August 2022, along with the RJD, Congress, and Left parties.

‘All Bihar politicians are turncoats’

Political-strategist-turned-activist Prashant Kishor, who had earlier had announced that Mr. Kumar would make another turnaround before the 2024 Lok Sabha poll, said, “Now Nitish Kumar is widely recognized as sardar (chief) of palturams (turncoats). However, today’s development showed that all politicians in Bihar are palturams.” He offered a dismal forecast for Mr. Kumar’s political future. “This formation in which Nitish Kumar is the face of the NDA won’t exist until the Assembly elections in Bihar next year. I can give you this in writing,” he said. “The change will happen within six months of the Lok Sabha poll [likely to be held in April-May 2024],” Mr. Kishor quipped.

The new NDA government in the State now has the support of 128 MLAs — 78 from the BJP, 45 from the JD(U), four from HAM(S) and one Independent — while the mahagathbandhan, now in the Opposition, has the support of 115 legislators, including 79 from the RJD, 19 from the Congress, 16 from the Left, and one from AIMIM, in the 243 member State Assembly.

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