A day after he ended his alliance with the BJP and returned to the Mahagathbandhan, JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar took oath Wednesday as Chief Minister of Bihar for a record eighth time and urged all Opposition parties to prepare for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Along with him, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav too was administered the oath of office and will be the Deputy Chief Minister.
Ministers will be inducted any time after August 15 when RJD chief Lalu Prasad is likely to be in Patna.
On Tuesday, Nitish had met Governor Phagu Chauhan, and staked a claim to form the government. He submitted a list of 164 MLAs from seven parties in the Mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance. The strength of the Bihar House is 243.
Nitish has been asked to prove his majority on the floor of the House at a specially convened session of the Assembly on August 24-25.
He urged all Opposition parties to start preparing for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. “Let all parties stick together for the 2024 polls. All Opposition parties have to come forward,” he said, declining to comment on queries about moving to politics at the national level.
Responding to another query, Nitish took a swipe at his former ally which stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony, saying if BJP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi was still with him, this situation would not have arisen.
“Hamari mitrata rahi hai. Unko kahe nahi… Woh yahan rahte toh ye nahi hota (We were friends. But why was he (not retained as Deputy CM). Had he been here, this would not have happened),” he said.
Asked about his promise of ensuring jobs, Tejashwi said, “I have already spoken to the CM about it. Very soon, there will be bumper vacancies for government jobs in Bihar.”
“This alone is the real alliance and government. Nitish Kumar has taken a fearless decision. We are socialists who know how to hold on to our legacies. How can BJP talk of finishing regional parties and disturb the Ganga-Jamuni culture? We cannot tolerate it,” he said.
Sources said the cabinet expansion will take place any time after August 15 because the RJD and JD (U) want a thorough discussion on distribution of portfolios, especially in the presence of Lalu Prasad in Patna.
Sources said there will be a power-sharing formula under which the RJD may get the ministries of finance, road construction, town planning and agriculture and some others, while the JD (U) might keep home, education, building construction and water resources and a few other ministries.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi told The Indian Express that Nitish wanted to become Vice-President of the country. “Some Nitish Kumar aides approached the BJP state leadership with a message that he wanted to become Vice-President. This shows Nitish did nurse national ambitions,” he said.
“We are stunned at what he did and in the manner he broke ties with us. When he snapped ties with us in June 2013, he had apprised the state and Central BJP leaders about his stand well in advance. So even if it was still a betrayal of the mandate for NDA, we could still say that we knew it. But this time, it was a complete betrayal of the mandate for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The 2020 Assembly elections was not a mandate for Nitish Kumar as JD (U) got only 43 seats and was placed third after RJD and BJP,” Modi said.
BJP leader and former Union Minister Radha Mohan Singh too said, “It is true that Nitish Kumar wanted to become Vice-President. One does nurse big ambitions.”
BJP MP and Union Minister Giriraj Singh said, “Nitish Kumar distanced himself from us because of his national ambition for the 2024 polls. There can be no other reason.”
PTI adds: JD (U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh hit back, saying the party was “not scared of ED and CBI” following its break-up with the BJP.
Addressing a press conference, Lalan also mocked Sushil Kumar Modi’s claim: “He has been shunted by the BJP as a punishment for the close relations he shared with Nitish Kumar. May such antics bring him some degree of political rehabilitation.”