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Nitish Kumar Dumps INDIA Bloc To Join Hands With BJP In Bihar

Once seen as the mover and shaker of Opposition unity, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) President Nitish Kumar has partnered with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar after quitting the INDIA bloc.

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Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Nitish Kumar takes oath for ninth time as the Chief Minister of Bihar after quitting the INDIA bloc and joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Photo: JD (U)
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For the fourth time in the past 10 years, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) President Nitish Kumar on Sunday switched his political allegiance by quitting the INDIA coalition and joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). 

Nitish on Sunday took oath as the Chief Minister of Bihar for the ninth time with the support of the BJP. While the exact composition of the new Nitish ministry is not clear at the moment, there are reports that BJP leaders Samrat Choudhary and Vijay Sinha may be appointed as Deputy Chief Ministers. Both of them also took oath as Cabinet ministers.

Earlier in the day, Nitish resigned as the CM of Bihar and informed Bihar Governor Rajendra Arlekar that he had left the coalition comprising Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, and Left parties. As per the norms, Arlekar asked him to continue as caretaker chief minister until a new government is formed in the state. 

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While Nitish's JD (U) has 45 MLAs, the BJP has 78, and fellow NDA member Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) has four, taking the new coalition's numbers to 127, above the majority-mark of 122 in the 243-member Bihar assembly. There have also been reports that RJD tried to bring HAM-S to its side along with an Independent MLA and one more from AIMIM in attempts to reach the majority-mark but those attempts did not work. HAM-S President Santosh Kumar Suman, the son of former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, also took oath as a member of the new Nitish ministry. 

After submitting his resignation to Arlekar, Nitish told the media that he quit the ruling coalition as "things were not going well" among the coalition partners. 

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"Today, I have resigned as the Chief Minister and have asked the Governor Sahab to dissolve the government. I resigned because things were not going well...I was getting everyone's opinon, the opinion of our party's people, and opinion from all sides. I listened to all of them and that's why I resigned today and dissolved the government," said Nitsh to the media in Hindi.

The exit of Nitish and JD (U) from Bihar's ruling coalition also marks a blow to the INDIA bloc and attempts at Opposition unity for the 2024 general elections. The bloc was already reeling from the refusal of Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to share seats with partners in West Bengal and Punjab respectively. 

Once the mover and shaker of attempts to create Opposition unity, Nitish was seen as a potential prime ministerial candidate of the INDIA bloc. It was at his initiative that the first meeting of the Opposition parties was held in Patna. The momentum generated from the meeting led to the formation of the INDIA bloc in July 2023. The turnaround of Nitish is also a setback to Opposition unity as the INDIA bloc has lost one of its tallest leaders and someone at whose initiative the bloc was formed in the first place. As three leading constituents of the INDIA bloc —TMC, AAP, and JD (U)— are now either out or flying solo, the basic premise of the bloc that the coming together of all Opposition parties would lead to the convergence of all non-BJP voters is under question and the relevance of the INDIA bloc is also under strain. 

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At one point, Nitish appeared set to be named as the convenor of the INDIA bloc, but it's understood that TMC supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee along with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi blocked the proposal. After realising that he would not become the Prime Minister of India under INDIA bloc, it's understood that Nitish made the move to walk out of the alliance and join hands with the BJP, the party he has dumped twice in the past 10 years. 

In 2013, Nitish snapped ties with the BJP over the elevation of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. He had been a BJP ally since 1996. Then, in 2015, he formed the Grand Alliance with RJD in Bihar. Then, in 2017, he ditched RJD and joined hands with the BJP to continue as the Chief Minister of Bihar. He contested the 2020 Bihar assembly elections in an alliance with the BJP. After the JD (U)-BJP alliance won, the terms of the pre-poll pact ensured that Nitish remained as the CM of Bihar even as he was the junior partner with 45 seats and BJP was the senior partner with 78 MLAs. Then, in 2022, he dumped the BJP and resurrected the Grand Alliance to form the government in the state with RJD, Congress, and Left parties. Now, a year and a half later, the alliance has fallen apart and JD (U) under Nitish has returned to the folds of NDA again. 

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