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Nitish Kumar is CM again as political balance shifts in Bihar, to face trust vote today

Kumar will seek a trust vote in the assembly on Friday, a test he is set to easily clear given the BJP’s support.

india Updated: Jul 28, 2017 00:42 IST
Arun Kumar
Arun Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
Nitish Kumar,Bihar,Modi
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar leaves Raj Bhawan after taking oath as chief minister in Patna on July 27, 2017.(Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)

Within 18 hours of resigning as Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar took oath on Thursday as the head of the government for the sixth time with the BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi as his deputy.

He will seek a trust vote on Friday after re-forging a partnership with the BJP, four years after he walked out of the NDA.

His surprise resignation sank the three-party “grand alliance” of his Janata Dal (United), Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress that defeated the BJP in the 2015 state elections.

Kumar’s switch upset several leaders of the JD(U) as well, including parliamentarians and local unit heads. Sharad Yadav, who led the party before Kumar, is also said to be displeased with the chief minister’s “unilateral decisions”.

RJD chief Prasad accused Kumar of cheating the people of Bihar and said in Ranchi he could challenge in the Supreme Court the governor’s action of disallowing his party, the single largest with 80 legislators, to stake claim to form a new government.

Numbers seems to favour Kumar. The JD(U) has 71 MLAs, the BJP 53, other NDA partners five. Besides, two of the four independents have backed the NDA, making a bloc of 131, which is nine more than the majority mark in the 243-member assembly.

The RJD-led grouping has 107 members, including the Congress’s 27. Two independents and three CPI-ML members are unattached.

Law experts believe a legal fight against Kumar may fall flat as the Goa and Manipur instances proved this year. The Congress won more seats in both states in the 2017 state elections, but the BJP tied together bigger combinations. The top court dismissed the Congress’s challenge.

They said Bihar governor KN Tripathi’s action was not illegal.

“After a crisis the concept of who has the larger and a stable combination comes. So the governor has the discretion to call a combination or party who will enjoy majority on the floor of the House,” senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan said.

Governor Tripathi, who was admitted to hospital on Wednesday when the political drama played out in Patna, returned to Raj Bhavan and administered the oath to Kumar at 10am.

The cabinet would be expanded after Friday’s vote, sources said.

Sources said the JD(U) could get a ministerial position in the Narendra Modi government during a reshuffle planned after Parliament’s monsoon session. The move would make the “alliance” complete at the Centre and the state, and check rumblings within the party.

JD(U) leaders, including Rajya Sabha members Ali Anwar and Veerendra Kumar, attempted to persuade Sharad Yadav on Thursday to take the lead to oppose Kumar for allegedly not taking the party into confidence.

Veerendra Kumar said: “He (Sharad Yadav) told me there is no question of accepting the current stand of Nitish Kumar.”

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi also criticised Kumar for dumping the grand alliance and joining the BJP.

“The mandate was against the communal stand of the BJP but Nitish has chosen to embrace them. We were aware of what was going on for three-four months. This is the problem with Indian politics. For the sake of power and personal gains, they compromise with anything.”

BSP chief Mayawati accused Kumar of betraying the people of Bihar. “Democracy will be weakened. This is another example of hunger for power.”

For his part, Kumar thanked Prime Minister Modi for his congratulatory message after being sworn-in.

He said his administration would not compromise on corruption and was hopeful that Bihar’s development agenda would gather momentum with the Centre’s support.

Kumar’s decision to quit came hours after the RJD chief ruled out the resignation of his son and deputy chief minister Tejashwi, who is facing an investigation over an alleged land-for-hotels scandal.

Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary told reporters that in view of the trust vote, a day-long special sitting of the assembly has been convened on Friday.

The BJP sent party secretary Anil Jain and health minister JP Nadda to the swearing-in.

Nadda said: “Kumar’s step is courageous and will send a positive message against corruption ... We will contribute to the state’s development with him.”

The Kumar-Modi reunion makes the BJP-led NDA’s bid to retain power in the 2019 general election stronger. The BJP and its allies rule 12 states that send 20 or more MPs to the Lok Sabha.

The opposition’s attempts at forging a united front against the NDA took a hard hit after the exit of Kumar, identified with good governance and probity.

“Who will be key faces in any such opposition front in 2019? Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Lalu Prasad? None of them can corner us on the issue of corruption or good governance. Nitish was a different matter,” a BJP leader said.

(with agency inputs)

First Published: Jul 28, 2017 00:23 IST