Following days of simmering tensions, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday ended his party Janata Dal (United)'s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Nitish on Tuesday met Bihar's Governor Phagu Chauhan twice. First, he submitted his resignation as the National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) Chief Minister of Bihar. Then in the second meeting, he staked claim to form the Mahagathbandhan government.
After parting ways with BJP, Nitish has now entered into a Grand Alliance with the Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD)-led bloc which also comprises of Congress and Left parties. All of these parties had openly extended support to Nitish long before he made it public that he is splitting with the BJP.
Rashtriya Janata Dal was hitherto the main opposition party of Bihar. It is the largest party in the state assembly.
In the JD(U)-RJD government, sources have told Outlook that RJD would be given charge of the Home Ministry whereas Nitish would continue as chief minister.
The JD(U) meeting had led to major speculation about a split between the NDA partners BJP and JD(U). As per reports, the party had been growing increasingly wary of the BJP's dominant position within the alliance with seeds of discontentment being sowed in 2019 itself when the BJP high command chose to offer just Union Cabinet berth to JD(U).
CPI-ML (Liberation) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya had said on Monday the crux of the row between JD(U) and BJP also stemmed from the recent statement by J P Nadda, president of the saffron party, who said regional parties “have no future”.
Allies since the 1990s, JD(U) and BJP have in the recent past squabbled on issues ranging from Agnipath, caste census, population law, and ban on loudspeakers. Although JD(U) supported NDA candidates in presidential and vice presidential polls, Nitish Kumar's absence at a number of functions and his decision to skip Sunday's NITI Aayog meet, coupled with his silence amid the political standoff, had kept political watchers on tenterhooks.
The JD(U)'s principal concerns seem to be the alleged attempts by the BJP high-command, including Home Minister Amit Shah, to divide JD(U) into factions. Tensions spiralled after the party accused former JD(U) leader RCP Singh of corruption and of serving as Amit Shah's proxy. Singh quit JDU last weekend. RCP Singh is the former JD(U) representative in the Union government.
These developments came after months of tussle between BJP and JD(U), with observers noting for some time that all has not been well with the coalition in Bihar. Some have even called it an "unhappy marriage" borne out of political compulsions. Amid the BJP-JD(U) tussle, the section of JD(U) close to Nitish was also engaged in a tussle with Singh that culminated with his resignation on Saturday.
In Tuesday's meeting, Nitish is understood to have told party legislators and MPs that he had been driven against the wall by the BJP which tried to weaken his JD(U), first by propping up Chirag Paswan’s rebellion and later through the party’s former national president RCP Singh.
Left parties' support to JD(U)
Earlier, the Left parties said they would welcome any realignment of forces in Bihar’s ruling coalition that excludes the BJP.
A senior CPI-ML leader told Outlook that it has intended a letter of support to JDU.
The CPIML (Liberation), which is the largest Left party in Bihar with 12 MLAs, had also said that it “will extend a helping hand” if JD(U) were to ditch the BJP and set up or join a new coalition, the CPI(M) –the larger party nationally but with two legislators in the state– felt that “if a new alignment were to take place, it would be a positive development”.
(With PTI inputs)