Late last week, a JD(U) legislator had met Nitish Kumar in the middle of the continuing tension in Bihar’s Grand Alliance. Nitish had asked the legislator to avoid criticising the RJD. Just when it looked a sort of gag order from the CM, he had added, almost faintly, “Ab toh conclusion ka samay aa gaya hai (it’s time for the finale).”
JD(U) leaders say it was a broad hint that Nitish Kumar had by then almost readied his script for his return to the NDA.
On Wednesday, that script appeared straight out of a Bollywood potboiler, playing out over a few hours beginning in the evening, and ending past midnight.
The JD(U)’s legislature party meet was originally scheduled for Thursday, but Nitish advanced it to Wednesday evening — to follow up on the outcome of the RJD legislature party meet the same afternoon, say JD(U) leaders. As RJD reiterated its stand that Tejashwi Yadav will not resign as deputy CM, Nitish decided to act. He had the option of recommending the Governor that Tejashwi be sacked but JD(U) leaders say that would have given RJD a chance to play the victim card.
When all MLAs and MLCs gathered at the CM’s 1-Anne Marg residence on Wednesday evening, Nitish took the microphone and is learnt to have elaborated every fine point since the CBI raids at Lalu Prasad’s premises on July 7. He subsequently spoke about his efforts to address the issue, and waiting for some solution to emerge, according to JD(U) leaders.
“Since no solution has come, and I have been at struggle with myself for two days, I have decided to resign,” he is learnt to have said — an announcement received with a thunderous applause by JD(U) legislators.
Time was promptly sought, and received, from Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi.
After resigning, Nitish took media questions for the first time since the July 7 raids. During his long conversation with the media, Nitish dropped enough hints of a political realignment with the BJP.
Back at 1-Anne Marg, he watched Lalu speak on TV channels. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had by then tweeted his congratulatory message, and Nitish responded promptly. Sources said the Prime Minister called Nitish later.
Within half-an-hour, Nitish received a call from Sushil Modi.
“Arey BJP ke log aa rahe hain, khana bhi khayenge (BJP MLAs are coming, they will dine with us),” he is learnt to have told his staff. The kitchen already looked prepared for 60-odd guests, according to a source close to the CM. Chairs were laid out. On the menu was puri, aloo sabzi, paneer, and daal — a vegetarian fare in the month of saawan.
Almost all top BJP leaders in the state — Sushil Modi, Nand Kishore Yadav, Prem Kumar, Nityanand Rai, besides Jitan Ram Manjhi, the former chief minister — arrived in a cheerful mood. Sushil Modi is learnt to have made it clear almost immediately that the BJP would join the government. NDA legislators promptly chose Nitish as their leader.
Nitish is learnt to have said, “The past is past. Let us work together with renewed energy and commitment, with zero tolerance for corruption.”
A nostalgic Sushil Modi reportedly told Nitish: “Lag raha hai mai koi sapna dekh raha hoon (it seems I am dreaming). Even though we had parted ways, we always shared a mutual respect. Whenever the Prime Minister discusses about you, he talks about your good work.” As JD(U) and BJP leaders present cheered, Nitish smiled at Sushil, his old comrade from JP movement days.