Patna: Nitish Kumar in a JD(U) meeting held at 1 Aney Marg, the CM’s official residence, remarked Tuesday that the BJP had frequently insulted him and was trying to break up his party. Around 3.40 pm, he went to the Raj Bhavan and subsequently declared that he had resigned from his post as Bihar Chief Minister.
He went back to 1 Aney Marg, and, according to JD(U) sources, waited for Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav and other leaders of the mahagathbandhan (alliance of the RJD, Congress and Left parties).
Tuesday’s developments marked the collapse of the BJP-JD(U) government in Bihar, which was sworn in on 16 November 2020, and the return of the mahagathbandhan, which led the state between 2015 and 2017 until Nitish moved back to the BJP.
There were celebrations at former Bihar CM Rabri Devi’s 10 Circular Road residence, as RJD workers marked the occasion by distributing sweets outside the gates.
Nitish Kumar, Tejashwi Yadav and other leaders of the Grand Alliance or mahagathbandhan met Governor Phagu Chauhan shortly after 6 pm and staked claim to form the new government. They submitted a list of 164 MLAs supporting Nitish Kumar.
When he exited the Raj Bhavan, Nitish said the governor had not extended a formal invitation to him to form the new government. “That decision is yet to be taken by the governor,” he added.
Earlier, MLAs of the Grand Alliance assembled at 1 Aney Marg, and declared Nitish the leader of the Grand Alliance.
Ousted from the state government, the BJP hit out at the JD(U) and the Nitish Kumar.
“It was the BJP that elevated Nitish Kumar to political heights. Made him a Union minister, made him the chief minister. Even made him CM despite the fact that he was a junior partner. He is a ‘Paltu Ram (turncoat)’ and he has preferred to go to the people he held irresponsible for ‘jungle raj’ in Bihar,” said BJP MP Ashwini Kumar Choubey.
At the aforementioned meeting of JD(U) legislators and MPs, held at 1 Aney Marg early Tuesday, the party had accused the BJP of trying to backstab it, by “luring its ministers with the promise of money and ministerial berths to break the party”.
“The BJP is trying to break our party. We cannot remain in an alliance with a party that backstabs us,” said JD(U) MLA from Nalanda, Kaushalendra Kumar.
According to sources present in the meeting, JD(U) national president Lalan Singh tagged former Union minister and party chief R.C.P. Singh as “the Trojan Horse being used by the BJP to break the party”.
Formerly regarded as being close to Nitish Kumar, R.C.P. Singh’s relations with the JD(U) soured when the party did not nominate him for the Rajya Sabha after his term ended earlier this year.
Meanwhile, differences between the JD(U) and the BJP had been in the news for a while, and the two had repeatedly vented their grievances against each other in public.
Around the same time that the JD(U) leaders were gathered at Kumar’s residence, BJP ministers went into a huddle at the house of deputy CM and BJP leader Tarkishore Prasad, as they awaited directions from the party’s central leadership.
“We were discussing if we should wait for Nitish Kumar to sack us — which would send the message that Nitish is responsible for the demise of the alliance — or resign,” a BJP minister had told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.
But the Bihar CM chose to resign instead.
In a similar change of ties in 2017, Kumar had got all his legislators inside 1 Aney Marg, got them to denounce the alliance (then with RJD and the Congress), and walked over to the opposition camp — the BJP.
Any patch-up between the JD(U) and the RJD had seemed difficult at the time, but Kumar’s relations with former CM and RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his family have been gradually on the mend. A re-alliance has been speculated ever since he attended an iftar party hosted by Lalu’s son Tejashwi earlier this year.
As JD(U) MLAs entered 1 Aney Marg Tuesday, they appeared to know about the agenda. “We will have no problem going with Tejashwi Yadav. Nitish ji and Lalu ji both belong to the socialist block,” said JD(U) MLA Hari Narayan Singh.
Tejashwi gives a spirited speech
Meanwhile, the man who is likely to be the new deputy CM of Bihar, Tejashwi Yadav, also held a meeting of RJD leaders at his residence Tuesday.
According to an MLA present at the meeting, “Tejashwi said that the BJP wanted to finish off regional parties. We are not ready to be finished off. The BJP wanted to split JD(U), the party it allied with. This is not the question of who becomes ministers. It is the question of saving democracy.”
The MLA added that Tejashwi claimed RJD leaders were constantly getting threats from BJP leaders for helping Nitish Kumar.
Sources present in the meeting also said that Congress leader Ajit Sharma arrived with the signed support for Nitish of 19 Congress MLAs. “All MLAs were asked to sign a petition giving support to Nitish Kumar,” said an RJD MLA.
Lalu Prasad’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav had talked about a possible agreement between Nitish Kumar and the RJD right after April’s iftar party, but nothing concrete was revealed then.
According to party sources, there have been at least three one-on-one meetings between Tejashwi and Nitish since, to finalise the details of an alliance and discuss ministry-sharing. It is also being speculated that, ahead of the 2024 parliamentary elections, Nitish Kumar will hand over the post of Bihar CM to Tejashwi, while he himself moves to Delhi.
The demise of an alliance
On Sunday, talking about former JD(U) chief R.C.P Singh, Lalan Singh had alleged that the BJP had created the “Chirag model” in 2020 to weaken Nitish Kumar — differences between the JD(U) and Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan had led the latter to target JD(U) seats in the 2020 Bihar assembly elections, allegedly in collusion with the BJP.
Last week, the JD(U) issued a showcause notice against R.C.P. Singh, over the acquisition of 58 plots of land by his family members in the past nine years, which were allegedly not mentioned in his Rajya Sabha election affidavit.
While R.C.P. Singh said the transactions were above-board, it was speculated that the showcause notice was born out of the JD(U)’s resentment over his perceived closeness to the BJP.
The current NDA alliance in Bihar had a troubled tenure with JDU and BJP leaders and ministers going public against each other frequently. There were differences over CAA, population control, caste census, special category status for Bihar, and other issues.
Relations between the two parties started going downhill soon after BJP leader and former Bihar deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi — a close Nitish aide — was moved out of the state’s politics and nominated to the Rajya Sabha in December 2020.
Earlier this month, Union Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah told party MLAs and MPs in Bihar to solve problems instead of complaining and to avoid unnecessary remarks, in what was seen as an overture to smoothen the party’s ties with JD(U).
But it was too late.
“The BJP-JDU alliance was no longer workable even at the ground level because of the bitterness between the two parties,” said a senior BJP leader.
This is an updated version of the report
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)