Curtains fell on the Grand Alliance on Wednesday with Nitish Kumar resigning as Bihar chief minister and dumping his allies — RJD and the Congress. The “ghar wapsi” of the Bihar chief minister, a former NDA ally, was complete as the BJP immediately swung into action and announced its support. Mr Kumar is scheduled to be sworn-in today, probably with some new Cabinet colleagues.
In Bihar Assembly, with 243 seats, the magic number is 122. While the JD(U) has 71 MLAs, the BJP has 53, taking their total to 124. Add to that NDA allies’ (the LJP, RLSP and HAM) five MLAs.
Mr Kumar’s “home coming” (he was part of the NDA till Narendra Modi became its prime ministerial candidate in 2014) is a major victory for the saffron brigade and a severe blow to the Opposition and its plan for a “united secular alliance” in 2019.
That Mr Kumar’s surprise move to step down was a part of a well thought out script became somewhat evident as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi reacted instantly after the chief minister stepped down.
Mr Modi tweeted, “Congratulations! Mr Nitish Kumar for joining the fight against corruption. 1.25 crore people are welcoming and supporting his honesty… For the bright future of the country, and especially Bihar, it is the need of the hour to rise above political differences and join the fight against corruption.”
The Grand Alliance, led by RJD, Congress and other secular parties, was yet again outfoxed by a superior saffron game plan. With the RJD’s 81 MLAs, Congress’ 27 and allies’ three legislators, the Grand Alliance is nowhere near the simple majority.
The drama began to unfold at around 7.30 pm when Mr Kumar reached the governor’s residence and put in his papers. The decision to quit was apparently over “probity in office,” as Mr Kumar wanted the deputy chief minister, Tejashwi Yadav, to step down following corruption charges.
The deputy chief minister, his father and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav had made it clear that Tejashwi “will not step down.”
Mr Kumar had also met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi last week to work out a solution. The Nitish camp claimed that the meeting between Mr Kumar and Mr Gandhi had failed to “evoke any result” and that the chief minister was “disillusioned.”
“I met Bihar governor and submitted my resignation. I have resigned because it was getting tough for me to work as the chief minister,” the Bihar chief minister said after meeting the governor.
He said that while he had not asked anyone, including Tejashwi Yadav, to resign, he said, “I told Lalu Yadav and Tejashwi that they must explain the charges publicly which they kept dodging”.
As Mr Kumar resigned, the BJP in the national capital swung into action and messages were sent to the state unit to rush to the governor before the Opposition could do so.
Sushil Modi met state legislators and party functionaries and declared the BJP’s support for Mr Kumar.
Mr Kumar’s decision to return to NDA fold is being viewed a move to back and be with the winning side.
With the Opposition in a complete disarray and indications that NDA-led by Mr Modi is all set to the return to power in 2019 general elections, Mr Kumar was in no mood to stick to the “losing side,” a JD(U) leader said.
Mr Kumar’s decision to ally with the saffronites is expected to have minor tremors within the JD(U) as senior leader Sharad Yadav had made it clear that he would “quit” the party if the chief minister crossed over to the BJP.
While Mr Kumar’s switch could be a win-win situation for the BJP, the JD(U) could be in a fix during the 2019 general elections if Muslims and Yadavs remain loyal to RJD chief Lalu Yadav.