Hours after dumping the BJP to get back with the RJD, Bihar Chief Minister today said the new ‘Mahagathbandhan’ or Grand Alliance has seven partners, and thus the numbers to take power. “We have 164 MLAs with us. They’ve all signed the letter of support,” he said. “The Governor will now decide when the new government is formed.”
Asked why he walked out the BJP-led NDA, he said, “Our party unanimously wanted to exit that alliance. I could no longer ignore the voice within my party.”
RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav — set to be his deputy again — was with Nitish Kumar as he spoke to reporters after meeting the Governor. “The chacha-bhatija (uncle-nephew) government is back, and we will take Bihar to newer heights,” Mr Yadav said, calling Nitish Kumar “the most experienced CM in the country”.
Speaking first, Nitish Kumar kept his statement limited to “basic things” such as the numbers.
With a smile, he said Tejashwi Yadav would “tell you everything else”, at which a buoyant Mr Yadav launched into an attack on the BJP.
“The BJP only knows how to divide people on communal lines,” Mr Yadav said. “Look at what it does to allies. It tries to finish them off. Look at Punjab, or Maharashtra. And they were trying to do that in Bihar too.”
He underlined that his father Lalu Prasad Yadav, as chief minister, had arrested BJP’s LK Advani and stopped his ‘Rath Yatra’ during the Ayodhya-Ram Temple movement. Lalu Yadav, on bail after conviction in fodder scam cases, is recuperating in Delhi after a shoulder fracture.
Tejashwi Yadav said BJP chief JP Nadda, during a recent Patna visit, spoke of “finishing off regional parties”. “How can he say such a thing in Bihar, the motherland of democracy? He wants to finish off all Opposition, which means finishing off democracy.”
“All of us wanted the BJP’s agenda shouldn’t be implemented in Bihar,” Mr Yadav said, looking towards Nitish Kumar.
He cited price rise, unemployment and the Chinese aggression on the border as well. “They (BJP’s central government) have failed on all fronts. That’s the feeling across the country.”
For Nitish Kumar, this was his second meeting with the Governor within a few hours as he earlier handed him his resignation. He then went to meet the RJD leader and they went together to the Governor to seek a chance to form a new government.
The BJP has accused Nitish Kumar of “betraing the mandate of the people” by switching partners mid-term.
But this is not unexpected from Nitish Kumar, who has a track record of ideological flexibility.
The realignment today came on the back of the understanding that Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav developed over the last few months, signs of which were visible in gestures and silences.
This morning, Nitish Kumar told his MLAs of the decision to break up with the BJP, after accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party of trying to split the JDU. Around the same time, Tejashwi Yadav met with his MLAs to formally agree to a tie-up with Nitish Kumar for a return to power.
Nitish Kumar submitted his resignation to the Governor by 4 pm.
The numbers stack up the RJD is the largest party in the Vidhan Sabha, with 79 MLAs. With JDU’s 45, they comfortably reach the majority mark of 122 in a House of 243. The new alliance includes the Congress’s 19, besides some from other parties and at least one Independent — the math was never a hurdle for such a realignment.
The BJP has 77 MLAs, which will make it the principal opposition party.
For Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav, this is only the latest turn in their decades-long association that’s seen them fight and make up several times. Both emerged as young leaders in the 1970s from Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement. They first split up in the 1990s as Nitish Kumar chose to partner with the BJP.
Until 2015, Nitish Kumar was in partnership with the BJP — serving as Union Minister too — though it was a fractious pact once it became clear by 2013 that Narendra Modi would emerge as the BJP’s main leader for the 2014 Lok Sabha contest. Nitish Kumar’s primary point of discomfort was Narendra’s Modi past, mainly the Gujarat riots of 2002.
In the 2015 elections, the JDU, RJD and Congress came together and won. They billed it as a victory of secular principles. Tejashwi Yadav became deputy chief minister; his brother Tej Pratap Yadav, too, a minister.
But Nitish Kumar walked out of the “Grand Alliance” to go back with the BJP in 2017. The JDU and BJP together won the 2020 elections. Two years later, we have the ‘Mahagathbandhan 2.0’ which — according to Nitish Kumar’s math — is stronger than the 2015 version.