Will He, Won’t He? All Eyes on Nitish as JD(U) Says No Compromise on CM Post, BJP In No Hurry to Decide

The Janata Dal (United) on Friday cancelled all its upcoming programmes, including the Maharana Pratap rally on January 28 that was to be attended by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, amid the possibility of him joining hands with the BJP yet again. His differences with INDIA bloc allies continue to deepen, with sources in his party saying the “old formula” is likely to be repeated if he returns to the NDA fold — Nitish Kumar as chief minister and two deputies from the BJP.

According to JD(U) sources, the BJP may insist on their CM face for the 2025 assembly elections but there will be no compromise on the CM post for Nitish. They said the whole situation will take at least two days to settle while further negotiations will start on Saturday (January 27).

What is the BJP saying?

Leaders from the BJP, meanwhile, held hectic meetings on Thursday (January 25) amid the political turmoil in the state. Samrat Choudhary, who is the Bihar BJP president, and other senior leaders from the state including Sushil Modi and Vijay Kumar Sinha, met the party top brass, including Amit Shah.

Bihar’s longest-serving CM has been cut up with the INDIA bloc for not getting a position in the alliance commensurate with his stature and also favours an early assembly poll to go with the Lok Sabha elections. This suggestion, however, has not drawn a positive response from the RJD, the biggest party in the state’s ruling alliance, sources said.

State BJP leaders have also not given their opinion in support of holding the assembly and Lok Sabha polls simultaneously. Sources in the BJP said the assembly polls will not be held along with Lok Sabha in Bihar and it the saffron party has not yet taken a decision.

Sources further said the BJP, which had its first round of feedback meeting on Thursday, will continue to take feedback in the coming days. The party will also assess the situation and take feedback from allies like Upendra Kushwaha, Jitan Ram Majhi and Chirag Paswan, and are in no hurry to decide, they said.

The BJP has been showing signs of warming up to Nitish, who has swapped his alliance preference between the saffron party and the RJD-Congress-Left camp frequently while remaining in power, with its leaders toning down their criticism of him of late — even praising him at times.

Shah himself sounded more open to such a possibility in a recent interview. Asked about the likelihood of the JD(U) president’s return to the BJP-led alliance, the union home minister said the party will consider if such a proposal is ever made. Earlier, he had often said the doors had been closed for the CM’s return to the ruling alliance at the Centre.

What is the Congress, RJD and others saying?

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has suggested that there should be consensus on the post of the convenor of the INDIA bloc, said JD(U) sources. As far as Nitish was concerned, the alliance was the breakpoint and this was despite Sonia Gandhi already proposing the Bihar CM’s name, sources added.

On the current political situation, however, some in the Bihar Congress have expressed confidence that Nitish will remain with the INDIA bloc. “I can say with confidence that Nitish Kumar will remain with INDIA. Nitish Kumar has resolved to throw BJP out of power, and we have trust in his resolve,” said party leader Prem Chandra Mishra.

Even those in the RJD said the BJP is “scared” when it comes to Bihar. “Bihar Mahagathbandhan government is progressing keeping the welfare of the people in mind. Only those who have fear in their hearts say ‘All is well’ repeatedly. The BJP is scared regarding Bihar,” leader Prem Chandra Mishra expressed said RJD leader Shakti Yadav.

Kushwaha, in a subtle dig at Nitish, questioned if the CM will stay with the NDA after the elections. “There is talk that he may join the NDA. It is true that CM Nitish Kumar is considering leaving the (INDIA bloc). If he joins the NDA, the big question is whether he will stay after the elections… What is the guarantee that he will not leave the NDA after the Lok Sabha elections?” he asked.

What are the political developments in Bihar of late?

Lately, JD(U) and RJD leaders have been sniping at each other amid apprehensions among supporters of Nitish that their ally has been trying to undermine him in matters of governance as well as politics. The Bihar CM’s decision to take over as the party president by cutting short the tenure of Lalan Singh was seen as a determined effort by him to take firm control of its organisation amid suggestions by a section of JD(U) leaders that the CM’s confidant may have grown too close to the RJD or was pursuing an independent agenda.

The RJD has, however, taken some placatory moves by first agreeing to the relegation of education minister Chandra Shekhar to the relatively insignificant portfolio of sugarcane industries. Party president Lalu Prasad’s daughter Rohini Acharya also deleted some posts targeting Nitish without naming him, hours after putting them out.

Turmoil in the INDIA bloc?

The INDIA bloc has been marred by incoherence and distrust, with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and her Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Singh Mann dealing double blows on January 24 that their parties, the TMC and AAP, will go solo in the Lok Sabha polls expected in April-May.

Signs of disconnect among the INDIA allies in Bihar will suit the BJP just fine as the elections loom. The same alliance had handed the saffron camp a big defeat in the 2015 assembly polls before Nitish joined hands again with the BJP-led NDA, which then swept the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He vaulted into the opposition’s alliance in 2022 as the BJP grew increasingly assertive following his party’s sub-par performance in the 2020 assembly polls.

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