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Nitish takes oath as Bihar CM for record eighth time, throws challenge at BJP on 2024 polls

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Patna, Aug 10 (PTI) Nitish Kumar on Wednesday was sworn in as Bihar’s chief minister a day after quitting – ostensibly over a row with coalition partner BJP – and will now govern in alliance with his former rivals in RJD and Congress.

His deputy and RJD’s leader Tejashwi Yadav was the only other minister sworn in by Governor Phagu Chauhan, in a no-frills ceremony at Raj Bhavan here as lists of ministers to be nominated by parties in the coalition and their berths were yet to be finalised.

Kumar who heads the JD(U) took oath for a record eighth time, as head of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance) which it had dumped in 2015, to join hands with the BJP.

The change effected by the wily leader, has in the eyes of many analysts potentially pitted him against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

However, soon after the swearing in ceremony, Kumar while dismissing rumours that he may now eye the Prime Ministerial race in the next general election, asserted the Modi-led NDA government at the Centre does need to “worry” about its prospects in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

“They should remember 2014 (when BJP stormed to power at the centre) is past. They need to worry (‘chinta karni chahiye’) about 2024,” Kumar said.

Leaders of the BJP, which is the second largest party in the assembly with 77 MLAs, were conspicuous by their absence at the swearing-in ceremony.

“We received no invitation. We would have, in any case, not liked to witness formation of a government which has been installed after betraying the people of Bihar, who voted for the NDA in the last assembly polls,” BJP leader Sushil Modi told a press conference, adding that it was “an insult to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who stuck to his promise of backing Kumar for another term, despite the JD(U)’s poor performance.” The BJP leader who had been deputy chief minister to Kumar, also claimed that Tejashwi Yadav as the leader of the numerically bigger party “will try to act as the de facto CM”. He also alleged that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wanted to become the vice president and had parted ways with BJP after the party failed to accommodate his ambitions.

Modi maintained his former boss, Kumar, “has a habit of ditching allies” and that he would “not be loyal to the RJD as well, and try to break that party taking advantage of Lalu Prasad’s ill-health.” Kumar however rubbished BJP’s claim that the new government will not last its full term, and said his former ally “will be back where they were after the 2015 assembly polls” when the NDA could get less than 50 seats in the 243-strong assembly.

He however said BJP should have let its senior leader Sushil Kumar Modi occupy the top post after the 2020 Assembly polls instead of insisting that he run for another term in office. “He has been a dear friend. Why was he not made the CM? Had he been appointed to the post, things would not have reached this stage,” he told reporters in reply to questions about Modi Kumar has given in a list of 164 MLAs who support him to the Governor including his party JD(U)’s 46 MLAs (45 party MLAs and 1 Independent), RJD’s 79 legislators and Congress’s 19. The CPI(ML) which has 12 MLAs, CPI – 2 and CPI(M) are giving him support. The HAM party which 4 MLAs has also thrown in its lot with Kumar.

The CPIML (L) Wednesday said it is seeking a common minimum programme from the new Bihar government while promising outside support to it.

“We are proposing that a common minimum programme of the new government be created,” Dipankar Bhattacharya, general secretary of the CPIML (L) said at a press conference held Later in the day, JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan, asserted that his party was “not scared of ED and CBI” being used against it by the BJP-led central government. The Centre has often been accused by the opposition of misusing investigating agencies to target political rivals.

The Congress exulted at the turn of events in Bihar after having seen a government in Maharashtra where it was part being pulled down by defections.

Congress leader and MP Jairam Ramesh, in a tweet, said that Bihar was ‘no operation lotus’.

“No cash caught. No ED raids. No Assam CM. No resort travel. All done in characteristic Bihar style, civilised & low-cost. CM gets support of largest party and others. In Maharashtra, BJP engineered defections. In Bihar, BJP was rejected and ejected,” he wrote on the social media. Team PTI JRC JRC JRC

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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