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Explained: How Numbers Stand In Bihar Assembly Amid Buzz Of Nitish Kumar's Switch To BJP, Can RJD Secure Numbers To Retain Power?

Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is set to walk out of the alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, and Left parties in Bihar to join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to reports.

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RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav and JD (U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
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Amid indications that Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar may leave the INDIA bloc and join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the focus has shifted to numbers in the Bihar assembly.

The Nitish-led 'Mahagatbandhan' government of JD (U), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, and Left parties are currently well beyond the majority-mark of 122 in the 243-member Bihar assembly. However, the numbers will be short of the majority-mark in case Nitish walks out of the grand alliance to join the BJP. 

In the Bihar assembly, the RJD is the single-largest party with 79 MLAs, followed by BJP with 78, and Nitish's JD (U) comes a distant third with 45 MLAs. Despite being the junior partner, Nitish became the Chief Minister of Bihar after the 2020 assembly elections as per the pre-poll agreement with the BJP, with which the JD (U) was in an alliance at the time. 

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Even as the break-up of the 'Mahagatbandhan' is not yet formal, there are reports that say that RJD is scrambling to secure enough numbers in the assembly to retain power even if Nitish walks out of the alliance. 

Here we explain how numbers stand in the Bihar assembly, how Nitish's exit will change things, and what RJD is set to be attempting to save the government.

How Numbers Stand In Bihar Assembly?

In the 243-member Bihar assembly elected in 2020, the RJD is the single largest party with 79 seats and the BJP stands second with 78 MLAs.

Nitish Kumar's JD (U) stands third with 45 seats. Nitish contested the 2020 Bihar assembly elections in an alliance with the BJP. Despite being the junior partner of the coalition, Nitish became the CM of Bihar as per the pre-poll agreement with the BJP that had assured him the chief ministerial berth. 

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Within two years, however, Nitish dumped the BJP and joined hands with the RJD, Congress, and Left parties to form the government. In this coalition too, Nitish was the junior partner but retained the chief ministerial berth, which is a running theme of his political career where Nitish has often switched sides to remain Bihar's CM.

Now, amid talks of Nitish's impending exit from INDIA bloc, this is how the parties stand in the Bihar's assembly: 

  • RJD                : 79

  • BJP                : 78

  • JD (U)            : 45

  • Congress        : 19

  • CPI ML (L)      : 12

  • HAM (S)          : 4

  • CPI (M)          : 2

  • CPI                 : 2

  • AIMIM            : 1

  • Independent : 1

As things stand today, the ruling Mahagatbandhan has 159 MLAs. However, if Nitish Kumar walks out to join hands with the BJP, the number will fall to 114 and the government will therefore collapse. In that case, the BJP-JD (U) combine would also be in a position to form the government as their combined strength will be 123. The BJP also has the support of fellow National Democratic Alliance (NDA) member HAM (S) which has four MLAs. This would take the BJP-JD (U) combine's numbers to 127. 

Can RJD Still Retain Power In Bihar?

Amid indications that JD (U) chief and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar is set to exit from the ruling coalition in the state and join hands with the BJP, it has also been reported that RJD is also trying to retain the numbers to stay in power even if Nitish walks out of the coalition. 

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In order to reach the majority-mark of 122, the RJD-led Mahagatbandhan without Nitish's JD (U) will need eight more MLAs. The HAM (S) has four MLAs. 

Moreover, one MLA from All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and one Independent MLA may also be roped in by the RJD to boost their numbers. Their support will take the coalition's numbers, if HAM (S) is also brought on board, to 120. That will still leave the coalition short of two seats. 

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While this might appear the end of the road for the RJD's attempts to retain power, the party might still want to rely on factionalism within the JD (U). Outlook's Abhik Bhattacharya and Md Asghar Khan reported that Nitish's move to join hands with the BJP has divided JD (U) into two camps.

"According to sources, Nitish’s move to rejoin the NDA has divided the party in two camps: leaders such as Ashok Choudhary, Vijay Chaudhary and Sanjay Jha back joining hands with the BJP, while the Lalan Singh camp is against this," reported Bhattacharya and Khan. 

In such a case, the RJD and those wanting to keep the Mahagatbandhan in power may look forward to breaking some members from the Lalan Singh camp against the alliance with BJP and getting them on board. 

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Even as the RJD may count on this, it might have already met a roadblock as Santosh, the son of Jitan Ram Manjhi who has been offered the Deputy CM post by Lalu, has said he remains with the BJP-led NDA.

"We are with the NDA; such offers keep coming," said Manjhi to Aaj Tak.

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