Breaking the grand alliance between his Janata Dal (United), Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress, which had stopped the Narendra Modi electoral juggernaut in Bihar in 2015, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar quit on Wednesday evening. And by midnight had secured the BJP’s support to form the next government in the state.
Just over four years ago, Nitish had split from the NDA and today he returned, claiming the “call of his conscience” over a CBI FIR against his Cabinet colleague and ally Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav. Elected as NDA leader at a hurriedly called meeting, Nitish will be sworn in on Thursday morning with BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi most likely to become his new deputy.
Sources said that as per the previous JD(U)-NDA government from 2005-2013, the NDA is likely to get 14 ministers. For his part, Tejashwi Prasad said that being the largest party with 80 MLAs in the House of 243, the RJD would also “seek time from the Governor to stake claim to form the government.” JD(U) has 71 MLAs, NDA 58 and Congress 27. While JD (U) and NDA have a majority, RJD and Congress have only 107, 15 short of simple majority. Lalu Prasad, who perhaps saw it coming, called the arrangement a “setting of RSS and BJP.”
He said that Nitish had used the Tejashwi-won’t-resign alibi to switch to the saffron camp. There were early straws in the wind, he said: Nitish’s support for demonetisation, the surgical strike and his party’s vote for Ram Nath Kovind for President.
The immediate gain for Nitish, sources said, is his “comfort” in running the government with the BJP — Sushil Modi said as much to The Indian Express at the Idea Exchange programme earlier this month. Nitish’s party that was reduced to two MPs in the Lok Sabha in 2014 polls — from 20 seats in 200 — had aligned with the RJD for 2015 Assembly polls and won a total of 178 seats, handing BJP its first defeat under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.