Leaving Opposition unity in tatters after resigning as chief minister of the Grand Alliance government in Bihar, JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar returned to the NDA Thursday at the head of a new government in the state with the BJP as partner. He was administered the oath of office by Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi who asked him to prove his majority on the floor of the House Friday — this will be Kumar’s sixth stint as Chief Minister.
Bihar BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister, a post he had held for more than seven years under Nitish Kumar before they parted ways in 2013 in the run-up to the last Lok Sabha elections. Modi said the cabinet will be named once the alliance partners decide on the allocation of departments.
Shortly after the Raj Bhavan ceremony, the JD(U) announced support to the BJP-led NDA government in both Houses of Parliament. Kumar told reporters: “Whatever decision we have taken will be in the interest of Bihar and of its people. It will ensure development and justice. This is a collective decision… our commitment is towards the people of Bihar.” | Also Read: Nitish back in NDA: In embrace this time, BJP has the upper hand
Thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his greetings, Kumar said: “There will be no compromise on matters of corruption. We expect cooperation from the Centre for the development of Bihar.” Earlier, the Prime Minister, in a tweet, said: “Congratulations to @NitishKumar ji & @SushilModi ji. Looking forward to working together for Bihar’s progress & prosperity.”
Kumar stepped down Wednesday night as Chief Minister of the Grand Alliance — it comprised the JD(U), RJD and Congress — following a fall-out with the RJD over corruption charges against Lalu Prasad and his family members. Lalu’s son, Tejashwi Yadav, was Deputy Chief Minister in the outgoing government.
On Thursday, an angry RJD stayed away from swearing-in ceremony, saying the Governor had not taken any note of their request of calling the single largest party to form the government. In the House of 243, the RJD has 80 MLAs, JD(U) 71, Congress 27 and CPI (M-L) 3. This was the Grand Alliance.
On Thursday, the NDA alliance submitted a list of 132 MLAs to the Governor — JD(U)’s 71, BJP 53, RLSP 2, LJP 2, HAM 1 and Independents 3.
Tejashwi Yadav questioned the “haste” with which Kumar was invited to form the next government. RJD national spokesperson Manoj Kumar Jha said the S R Bommai case ruling had been overlooked and his party was seeking legal opinion to challenge the Governor’s decision to invite the Kumar-led alliance to form the government. Also Read | Scripted well: A few hours that changed Bihar
Describing Kumar’s return to the NDA as “good riddance for clarity of Opposition politics”, Jha dared the Chief Minister to go for secret ballot during the floor test. He claimed that at least 48 JD(U) MLAs were with the RJD. Asked to name the MLAs, Jha said: “They are anyway in captivity. We do not want any harm done to them.”
Earlier, Kumar entered Raj Bhavan amid chants of zindabad along with Sushil Kumar Modi. Only one chair was placed next to that of Kumar. Modi smiled as he sat on the chair after being administered the oath of office.
Speaking to reporters later, Kumar said: “Let me reiterate my agenda of good governance and development with justice. We will work together for a stronger Bihar.” Sushil Kumar Modi said: “The CM will expand his cabinet soon. We will decide our priorities once the formality of ministry allocation is done.”
(PTI adds: On the RJD’s claim that it has the numbers, JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi said, “They should stop making tall claims and if they really have the numbers, let them prove it in the floor test. We have our numbers and we will prove it.”
“It was a mistake to forge an alliance with RJD. We had information that to save themselves from CBI cases, they were in touch with Union Ministers in Delhi and were planning to topple the Nitish Kumar government,” Tyagi said. “We regret our decision to run the government with such a person (Lalu Prasad) for 20 months. We blame ourselves for committing a mistake of taking their MLA count from 22 to 80,” he said.)
BJP partners RLSP, HAM (S) and LJP congratulated Kumar. LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan said: “I had predicted that the Grand Alliance government would fall midway. I extend my warm wishes to Nitish Kumar for becoming NDA CM”. RLSP chief and Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha said: “We will cooperate with Nitish Kumar in running the government smoothly, and for the development of Bihar.”