Kumar indicated that he was ‘reneging’ on his vow to hand the CM chair to Deputy CM and RJD de facto chief Tejashwi Yadav.
NEW DELHI: All is not well between the members of the ruling Grand Alliance in Bihar, with reports emerging of many party leaders in Janata Dal (United) not happy with the present situation in which the party is. With Chief Minister Nitish Kumar indicating that he was “reneging” on his public promise of handing over the Chief Minister chair to Deputy CM and RJD de facto chief Tejashwi Yadav, party leaders in JDU told The Sunday Guardian that things have soured between the two.
“There is a sense of confusion. Earlier, the CM said he wanted Tejashwi to succeed him, now his two closest confidantes (referring to JDU national president Lalan Singh and party spokesperson Neeraj Kumar) have said that there is no such plan. There is a section within the JDU which was not happy with Tejashwi’s forthcoming coronation. However, the opposite section (within the JDU) wanted it to happen as they felt that there will be some clarity on how things will move ahead as far as JDU post Nitish Kumar is concerned. Now no one knows what Nitish wants and what his future plans are, if any,” a JDU leader told The Sunday Guardian from Patna.
However, Neeraj Kumar, JD(U) spokesperson and someone who has the ears of Nitish Kumar, said there was no truth behind any discontent among the allies and Kumar will continue to stay as the CM till the next Assembly elections. “All this is being spread as a part of the agenda as we have been successful in creating and running a large anti-BJP coalition in Bihar, something which Nitishji wants to happen across India. This has caused many problems for the BJP. Also, the CM has publicly appreciated the efforts and work ethics of Tejashwi; nowhere has he stated that the CM will be changed before the next Assembly polls scheduled for 2025. Right now, our focus is the 2024 polls,” Kumar told The Sunday Guardian.
Leaders and functionaries close to Tejashwi have so maintained a studied silence on this matter. Tejashwi, who now controls the party, chose not to make an issue of it. “What wrong did they say? Indeed he (Nitish) is very capable. And the longer he stays, the richer his experience will be. I am in no hurry,” Yadav told journalists in Patna when quizzed about JDU leaders’ statements.
On 12 and 13 December last year, Kumar had publicly announced that Yadav would be his successor. This had happened just days after RJD in its national executive held in Delhi in October, had passed a resolution that gave the right to Tejashwi to change the party’s Constitution, name and symbol. This was a legal necessity that was needed if RJD decided to merge with any other party.
According to party insiders, the plan was to merge JDU with RJD, but that seems to have been shelved by Nitish Kumar after he realised that none of the opposition party leaders, especially the Congress, have shown any enthusiasm to present him as a common Prime Ministerial candidate for May 2024 elections.
What has, however, not been missed by both Nitish Kumar’s friends and foes is the thin ice on which he was standing. In the 243-member Bihar Assembly, the Grand Alliance which consists of JDU, RJD, Congress, the three Left Parties, Hindustani Avam Manch (HAM), apart from a lone AIMIM and one independent MLA, have 165 members with them. The opposition BJP has 78 MLAs in the House where the majority mark is 122. If the RJD leadership, which is clearly upset by the “volte-face” by JDU’s leadership, decides to ditch Nitish Kumar and tries to form the government on its own, then it will be at the mark of 120 (RJD 79, Congress-19, Left parties-16, HAM-4 and one independent and one AIMIM).
In this case, it will need the support of just two more MLAs to touch the 122 mark, assuming all the rest existing alliance partners agree to continue to support Tejashwi Yadav for the post of CM. The present Speaker of the House, Awadh Bihari Choudhary, is from the RJD. The elections in the state are scheduled for November 2025. In February 2014, almost nine years ago, Nitish Kumar had split the RJD into two, while engineering the defection of 13 of its 22 MLAs who had won in November 2010 polls. The RJD MLAs who walked out at that time were Samrat Chaudhary, Raghvendra Pratap Singh, Durga Prasad Singh, Lalit Yadav, Anirudh Kumar, Jeetendra Rai, Akhtarul-Islam Sahin, Akhtar-ul-Iman, Abdul Gafood, Faiyazz, Javed Iqbal Ansari, Ram Lakhan Ram Raman and Chandrasekhar.
This is something that none of the RJD leadership have forgotten. Interestingly, both the RJD leaders and the BJP leaders, while speaking to The Sunday Guardian, said that Nitish Kumar has lost the popularity that he once held among the voters of Bihar. According to a BJP functionary, it was “very difficult” to expect the BJP to extend support to Nitish Kumar again in case Tejashwi ditches him. “People will laugh at us and more than hurting Nitish Kumar, it will hurt our image,” he said. As things stand now, Nitish Kumar is not left with too many options. He can either appoint Tejashwi as his successor and phase himself out gracefully or prepare for an inglorious political exit that will come after being reduced to a leader of a “diminished” JDU.