Bihar Political Crisis: The Curious Case Of Nitish Kumar And His Relationship With Allies

Earlier too, Nitish played the same tactics to ditch his allies and form government with opposition parties, which even earned him the moniker 'Paltu Ram'.

By Talibuddin Khan
Updated: Tue, 09 Aug 2022 03:05 PM IST
Minute Read
Bihar Political Crisis: The Curious Case Of Nitish Kumar And His Relationship With Allies
A file image of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar speaking to the media in Patna. (ANI Photo)

The politics in Bihar again reached the boiling point with chief minister Nitish Kumar snapping his ties with the BJP. He is scheduled to meet the governor Phagu Chahuhan amid speculations that Nitish might join hands with estranged allies RJD and Congress to form the government in the state. Meanwhile, the meeting of Congress and Left party leaders, convened by the RJD, is also fueling the possibility of upheaval in Bihar's political corridors. The BJP also held a meeting of its top leaders at Deputy Chief Minister Tarkishor Prasad's residence in Patna.

This is not the first time that Nitish instilled fears in his allies by switching sides to retain power despite the fact that his party has never formed a government with a full majority. Earlier too, Nitish played the same tactics to ditch his allies and form government with opposition parties, which even earned him the moniker 'Paltu Ram'.

In 1998, the JD(U) and the BJP alliance was born with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the chairman. Nitish held both, Vajpayee and LK Advani, in high regard. The BJP was the first to have suffered the brunt of Nitish Kumar jumping the boats in 2013 when Kumar announced the split of the BJP-JD(U) alliance ending a 15-year-old friendship.

At that time, the reason for the split was PM Narendra Modi, who was elevated as the head of the election campaign committee of the BJP for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Later, Modi was made the NDA's PM candidate, the post Nitish was arguably eyeing. After walking out of the NDA then, Nitish gave a call for "Sangh-mukt Bharat" and also declared that "mitti mein mil jayenge, BJP ke saath wapas nahi jayenge", (I would prefer to be reduced to dust rather than going back to BJP).

In the 2015 Bihar Assembly Elections runup, Nitish Kumar entered the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) with Congress and arch-rival Rashtra Janata Dal led by Lalu Prasad Yadav. It won 71 seats out of the 101 seats it contested and the alliance won 178 seats out of the 243 seats in the assembly. Subsequently, Nitish Kumar again became the Chief Minister of Bihar for the fifth time and Lalu's son Tejaswi Yadav was sworn in as deputy chief minister.

However, the honeymoon period for the two friends-turned-foes-turned-friends got over two years later in 2017 when the differences between the RJD and the JD(U) started to emerge over the corruption charges against the RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav. The endpoint of the ties came when CBI raided Lalu's residence in connection with the IRCTC scam and named Tejaswi Yadav as one of the accused.

When Nitish asked for an explanation, RJD described it as a means to embarrass the party. In an overnight development, Nitish switched sides and joined hands again with the BJP to remain the Bihar chief minister and cited his ‘no-corruption’ plank. Following JD(U)'s exit from the Mahagathbandhan, Nitish formed the government with the saffron party with BJP’s Sushil Modi as his deputy.

Accusing Nitish of being an opportunist, Lalu Prasad Yadav had given him the monicker of Paltu Ram (turncoat). RJD leaders also termed the ‘anti-corruption’ plank of Kumar a farce and said that the real reason for Kumar was to remain in power as he had stitched an alliance with Lalu Prasad in 2015 though the latter was already convicted in 2013 in the first fodder scam case.

Till 2020, everything seemed fine between the JD(U) and BJP. However, cracks again emerged between the allies during the 2020 Bihar Legislative Assembly Elections, when the BJP reportedly had double minds to name Nitish as the CM candidate and contest an equal number of seats as the JD(U). However, the alliance formed the government despite RJD emerging as the single-largest party with 79 seats. The BJP won 77 seats while JD(U) won 45 seats in Bihar’s 243-seat assembly.

After the polls, the ties between the BJP and JD(U) remained sour over multiple issues including the proposal for population control, caste census, demand for special category status for Bihar, and the denial of Central university status to the Patna University. Nitish Kumar also stayed non-committal on an alliance with BJP in Bihar for 2024 LS polls and also has opted not to participate in the Union Cabinet from its ranks.

Now, with fresh turmoil in Bihar politics, only time will tell whether the RJD will climb to power in alliance with Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and get the Home Affairs portfolio, the post which could possibly be the bone of contention between the two.

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