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With No Option, BJP Lets Nitish Continue in Bihar for Fourth Term

Nitish Kumar

Nitish Kumar

CM’s swearing-in ceremony on Monday; BJP names two non-entities from its lot to be deputy chief ministers

Shaheen Nazar | NEW DELHI

Nitish Kumar was elected leader of the NDA Legislature Party in Patna on Sunday, paving way for him to become chief minister of Bihar for the fourth time in a row. His swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Monday, it was announced following the NDA meeting for which Defence Minister Rajnath Singh specially came from Delhi.

Leaders of four constituent parties of the NDA — JD(U), BJP, HAM(S) and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) attended the meeting to take the “unanimous” decision on Nitish Kumar who is going to create history by becoming chief minister of Bihar for the fourth consecutive term.

Another announcement that followed Nitish’s election is that he is going to have two deputy chief ministers. According to reports, BJP MLAs Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi, both non-entities in the party, are going to replace three-term Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi. His stepping aside was in the air ever since the election results came. BJP may shift Bihar’s Modi to Delhi, either accommodating him in the Central government or party organisation.

The fractured Bihar result had left the BJP with no option but to re-elect Nitish as CM. It must be frustrating for the party’s state leadership that despite having 74 MLAs to JD(U)’s 43, they are obliged to remain a junior partner in the NDA government. Nitish knew his unique position. That’s why he preferred to go in slow motion and let the top leadership of BJP speak for him. The result came on 10th of November. He made no statements for the full three days. Then on Friday, he told the media that he has “made no claim on the CM chair, the decision will be taken by NDA.”

According to the Indian Express, senior BJP leaders had to persuade an ‘unwilling’ Nitish to continue as CM. they gave him an assurance that he would have “full independence as before” in running the government.

In a way Nitish is second time lucky. In 2015, too, when he fought in alliance with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, his party got less number of seats than his ally. Still Lalu stick to his pre-poll commitment and made him CM because Lalu was barred by court from holding any constitutional position and his son Tejashwi was then a novice.

Five years later, BJP, too, is in an awkward position. With 74 seats in the 243-seat Assembly, it can’t form a government. Antagonising Nitish would mean pushing him to Tejashwi who is anyway waiting to prey. Senior RJD leader Manoj Jha has already questioned Nitish’s continuation as CM and warned of a “spontaneous” development: “How can someone become chief minister after getting 40 seats? People’s mandate is against him, he is decimated and should decide on it. Bihar will find its alternative, which will be spontaneous. It might take a week, ten days, or a month but it will happen,” he has been quoted by ANI as saying.

The man to be watched in the current scenario is Jitan Ram Manjhi, leader of NDA constituent Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) which has won four seats. For last 40 years or so the Maha Dalit leader has been a minister in all the governments in Bihar, be it Congress, Lalu or Nitish. In between he has even been chief minister for ten months or so when, after parliamentary election in 2014, Nitish had stepped down taking moral responsibility for the poll debacle. Manjhi has said that he would not join Nitish government. If he really means it, then it’s alarming.

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