Priyanka Chaturvedi said that Nitish’s political journey has been spotless as far as corruption charges are concerned, but one thing that has gone against him is that he has been changing alliances many times. Rajya Sabha member Chaturvedi said, “Nitish Kumar has been a colleague who often changes his mind.
After Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar severed ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party, he is once again being touted by some as the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2024 general elections. But most opposition parties still view the JD(U) leader with suspicion given his many ‘U-turns’. A senior opposition leader said that Nitish Kumar was among the leaders who aspired to become the prime minister, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Telangana Chief Minister K. Apart from Chandrashekhar Rao, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is also involved. Janata Dal (U) National Parliamentary Board Chairman Upendra Kushwaha said in Patna, “If you evaluate personalities in the country, Nitish Kumar deserves to be the Prime Minister. We are not making any claims today, but he has all the qualities to be a prime minister.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Sharad Yadav also said that Nitish Kumar could become the prime ministerial candidate in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Nitish Kumar, however, refused to answer questions about his being the face for the Prime Minister’s post in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav called Nitish Kumar “Paltu Ram” after he walked out of the RJD-JD(U)-Congress grand alliance in 2017 and joined hands with the BJP.
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Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said that Nitish Kumar’s political journey has been spotless as far as corruption charges are concerned, but one thing that has gone against him is that he has been changing alliances many times. Rajya Sabha member Chaturvedi said, “Nitish Kumar has been an ally who often changes his mind. One thing against him is faith…” He added that Uddhav Thackeray also stood strongly against the BJP. Clean administration during his tenure as Chief Minister, especially during the Kovid-19 pandemic. “The opposition has many capable leaders and it will be seen in 2024 how things shape up,” he said.
Left and Trinamool Congress leaders welcomed the development in Bihar, but declined to comment on Nitish Kumar’s chances of becoming prime minister. NCP leader Majid Memon said that Nitish Kumar could be one of the few candidates including Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee as the prime ministerial candidate in 2024. Memon, a former Rajya Sabha member, said, “There are several regional leaders. Nitish Kumar is one of them. Sure, he is a contender. But ultimately it will be a consensus decision as to who will challenge the BJP.”
Former JD(U) leader RCP Singh, who was once close to Nitish Kumar, said that the Bihar Chief Minister may take seven births, but he will never become the Prime Minister. BJP Rajya Sabha member Vivek Thakur termed Nitish Kumar’s exit from the NDA as “liberation”. He said, “Nitish Kumar’s ambition knows no bounds. He neither works for Bihar nor his party, he works only to fulfill his ambition. However, there is no vacancy for the post of Prime Minister. The BJP leader said that a Web series ‘Paltu Ram’ Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3′ may be made on Nitish Kumar’s political life. Suspended Congress leader Sanjay Jha said Nitish Kumar would be a more acceptable face as a united opposition candidate in 2024 than Mamata Banerjee.
Master the art of changing governments
If you look at the current political scenario in Bihar, Nitish Kumar has once again proved that he is an expert in the art of changing governments. The current political developments in Bihar are, for some, a contrast to what happened in 2017. He left the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-led grand coalition in 2017 and rejoined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition. For many, it is a repeat of what happened in Maharashtra where the BJP formed a government with rebel MLAs from the Shiv Sena, ousting the Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP government. “Bihar has become the other side of Maharashtra’s coin,” said Ranbir Samaddar, a political science expert and former professor at the Maulana Azad Institute of Asian Studies.
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Even moves like leaving the secular socialist platform to join a right-wing party and later leaving it may have affected Nitish Kumar’s image as a man of good governance but certainly not diminished his political ability to make the impossible possible. CPIML(L) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said, “If they maintain that momentum with their new move… the 2024 general elections will prove to be a real battleground for the BJP in Bihar, which has 40 crucial seats.”
Nitish Kumar (71), who is set to become the chief minister of Bihar for a record eighth time, started his journey as an engineer in the Bihar Electricity Board and later joined politics under the leadership of socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia and participated in the agitation in the 1970s. By Jayaprakash Narayan. After several splits and mergers of the Samajwadi Party, Nitish Kumar formed the Janata Dal (United). The JD(U)-BJP alliance attempted to end the long rule of the RJD of Samajwadi Lalu Prasad in Bihar and in March 2000 Nitish Kumar became the Chief Minister of the state for the first time. But his government was short-lived as the NDA did not have enough numbers. Nitish Kumar later joined the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and proved to be a good administrator as the Railway Minister. He introduced computerized railway reservation among other initiatives.
Hailing from the backward Kurmi community, Nitish Kumar was re-elected as Chief Minister in 2005 and this time he had enough numbers to stay in the government. Known as ‘Sushasan Babu’, Kumar improved the law and order situation in the backward state. He also improved the state’s infrastructure and educational institutions. After three terms as NDA chief minister, Nitish Kumar left the BJP and joined hands with his arch-rival Lalu Prasad’s party RJD and Congress in 2015. However, this alliance lasted till 2017 and he left the Grand Alliance and rejoined the NDA. It is obvious that now the old story is repeating itself.
BJP is seeing an opportunity to strengthen its base
Losing power in Bihar may have soured the Bharatiya Janata Party’s equation as the 2024 Lok Sabha polls approach, but a section of party leaders see it as an opportunity to end the dominance of regional parties in the state. It has been done in Uttar Pradesh. It is worth mentioning that the leader of Janata Dal (United) and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar separated from the BJP and joined the Rashtriya Janata Dal-led Grand Alliance. This is the second time in nine years that he has joined hands with the BJP. Relations between BJP and JD(U) have been strained in recent months over several issues and Nitish Kumar took this step.
A section of Bihar BJP leaders were not in favor of continuing the alliance with the JD(U), but the party’s central leadership believed that its (JD-U) presence in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would pave the way. Its way to 2024 is because in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the NDA captured 39 of the 40 seats in the state. A JD(U) MLA said that Kumar told a meeting of party MPs and MLAs that he had received a call from Delhi on Monday but Kumar told him that any decision on the alliance would be taken in a meeting of party leaders. Kumar did not name this leader but it is believed that he was a central BJP leader.
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However, the BJP is all set to compete with the Grand Alliance in the state in the upcoming elections. In the 2015 assembly elections, the grand alliance of JD(U) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) completely annihilated the BJP. Professor Sanjay Kumar of the Center for Study of Developing Societies said on the JD(U) split from the BJP, “It is a clear indication that the allies are not comfortable with the BJP and have parted ways one by one.” But at the same time it also gives the BJP an opportunity to strengthen its position in the state where the regional party has abandoned it,” he said. The development will give the BJP an opportunity to expand in the state. But I cannot say how successful it will be in 2024.
Some BJP leaders said that the BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gained a lot of traction among backward and downtrodden voters in many states over the past few years and it can single-handedly repeat its performance. He said that the JD(U) is considered a popular base among the OBC voters, but in the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2020 Assembly elections, along with Dalits, they also voted for the BJP in large numbers. A party leader said, “BJP is the strongest at the national level today and it is the right time to end the dominance of regional parties in Bihar. Just as the dominance of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh was over.
At present the number of MLAs in the state assembly is 242 whereas 122 MLAs are required for majority. RJD has the highest number of MLAs with 79, followed by BJP with 77 and JD(U) with 44. The JD(U) also has the support of four MLAs and one independent from former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha. Congress has 19 MLAs while CPI(ML) has 12 and CPI and CPI(M) have two MLAs each. Apart from this, one MLA belongs to Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).