Patna, Aug 10: Running an alliance government with six other parties in Bihar, Chief Minister and JD-U supremo Nitish Kumar may face challenges in the future but only from the big ally RJD. The other alliance partners are smaller parties which shouldn’t pose a big threat to him.
When Nitish Kumar was in a coalition with the NDA, his government’s strength in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha was 128 with the BJP having 74 seats after 2020 assembly elections apart from 4 seats of the VIP and 4 seats of HAM. Parties like the VIP and HAM were in the role of king makers in that government as 122 seats are required for the majority number. On a few occasions, VIP chief Mukesh Sahani threatened to come out from the government. Even, HAM gave several statements against the BJP and threatened the alliance that if HAM would withdraw the support of 4 MLAs, what would happen to the government.
Now, Nitish Kumar is going to form a new government in Bihar and apart from the RJD, there is no party in the state which is in the position of a king maker.
“The bargaining power can be decided only through the position and numbers of a government. Nitish Kumar is sitting comfortably here as the RJD desperately wants to come to power. The RJD was deprived of power for more than 15 years and it is difficult for it to survive as a regional party if it did not come to power again,” said a source in the RJD.
“The RJD will learn from the mistake it had made after the formation of the government in 2015. When the RJD emerged as the single largest party in Bihar with 80 seats, its leaders felt that the chief minister should belong to their party. As a result, they started targeting Nitish Kumar who was in second position with 69 seats. Eventually, Nitish Kumar shifted his goal post and went with the BJP and formed the government in the state,” he said.
At present, the JD-U has 46 MLAs and the RJD has 79 MLAs. The Bihar Vidhan Sabha has 243 seats and 122 are required for a majority. The JD-U and the RJD together have 125 seats. Hence, they do not require any other party to form the government. As parties like the CPI, CPI (M), CPI (ML) and the Congress are part of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, Tejashwi Yadav has a responsibility to bring it together. Jitan Ram Manjhi-led HAM has 4 MLAs and he has already decided to go with Nitish Kumar, so the JD-U is looking after him.
Apart from the RJD, no party in the current ‘Mahagathbandhan’ or HAM is in the position of king maker in the new government. So blackmailing by the smaller parties is no longer a threat for Nitish Kumar. While the RJD desperately needs to stay in power, Tejashwi Yadav, the new generation leader of the RJD, would not repeat the mistakes to lose power again for the next 15 years.
As per the common minimum programme worked out between Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav, the former will look after the interest of HAM and his own party JD-U while Tejashwi Yadav will look after his own party RJD, Congress, and left parties.
The Nitish Kumar government will face the challenge to tackle the Centre and the central agencies.
As per the track record of the Narendra Modi government, it has always targeted the leaders of opposition parties. Nitish Kumar has given the biggest jolt to the BJP by leaving the NDA. So, the obvious reaction from BJP is expected to target not only Nitish Kumar but Tejashwi Yadav as well.
Sources in the JD-U said that when Nitish Kumar went to former RJD CM Rabri Devi’s residence for the Iftar party during Ramzan, Bihar governor Phagu Chauhan went to New Delhi and met the prime minister. After this meeting, Chauhan came out from the south block office of PM Narendra Modi and left without interacting with the media persons.
On that occasion, there was reportedly a plan to impose President’s rule in Bihar if Nitish Kumar shifted from the NDA to the ‘Mahagathbandhan’. Nitish Kumar then reportedly postponed his move. Now, he executed the “Paltimar plan” within a few weeks after Ramzan. Sources said that the BJP did not want President’s rule as Kumar probably had audio recordings of BJP leaders reportedly making lucrative offers to JD-U MLAs. Nitish Kumar may make these alleged audio conversations public if the BJP uses the central agencies against him or his parties ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The CBI is also investigating scams like Srijan and girls’ shelter home case of Muzaffarpur which happened during Nitish Kumar’s rule but Kumar is not directly involved in it. So the threat of raids by different agencies may not affect Nitish Kumar.
“After taking oath, CM Nitish Kumar said: “After the 2020 assembly election I did not want to become the chief minister of Bihar. We lost after going with the BJP. The situation became worse in the last 2 months,”
For Tejashwi Yadav, his name cropped up in the IRCTC land for job scam but he was not directly involved in it. At that time, Lalu Prasad Yadav was a union minister and his then OSD Bhola Yadav looked after that alleged land for job scam. Bhola Yadav is in the custody of the CBI and the investigation is currently underway.
A RJD leader said that when the IRCTC scam took place between 2004 to 2009, Tejashwi Yadav was just 18 or 19 years old. He was not in politics then. Whatever happened at that time, Tejashwi was not directly involved in it. Questions may be asked to leaders like Lalu Prasad and his then OSD Bhola Yadav.
RJD leaders also have a Rangbaaz image.
In case the central agencies conduct raids at the premises of RJD leaders, this party has many Bahubali leaders like Anant Singh and Reetlal Yadav. Recently, Tej Pratap Yadav also met Siwan Bahubali leader Rais Khan. Dunna Ji Pandey is another Bahubali leader who is in touch with the RJD. They are capable of applying pressure on the officials of the investigating agencies. They will also have the support of the state government and the state machinery.
In case Lalu Prasad or Tejashwi or Tej Pratap go to jail, the RJD has made a plan to hand over charge to Rabri Devi again. The RJD think tank believes that sending Tejashwi to jail in a land for job scam may not prove him guilty as he was not directly involved. Rabri Devi is not facing any charges of corruption. She will be guided by leaders like Sunil Singh, Jagadanand Singh, Bhai Virendra, Shivanand Tiwari etc.
Nitish Kumar may face the challenge of a return to Jungle Raj in the state but political pundits believe that Jungle Raj can be tackled through the police. Kumar is a smart leader who keeps the home ministry portfolio with himself. He did the same after forming the government after the 2015 assembly election. During the 18 odd months of the government with the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, Jungle Raj did not return. Tejashwi Yadav also knows the nature of Nitish Kumar. He left in 2017 on the charges of corruption levelled against Tejashwi Yadav. Hence, if Tejashwi repeats the mistakes again, he and his party know the consequences.
Both CM Nitish Kumar and Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav will face the real challenge to take the state forward on the development path. They know that financial aid from the entre will not come. Even industrialists will avoid investments in Bihar as the BJP will definitely apply pressure on them. In that case, generating revenue from domestic sources is the key. Bihar is a farmers and labourers state with unemployment being a big challenge. The new government may opt for the Punjab and Delhi model to check corruption in the government so that the expenditure of the government would reduce in any project.
The government has changed in Bihar at a crucial juncture ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. For the BJP, it may be a lonely journey to the Lok Sabha polls in the state. On the other hand, parties like the JD-U and the RJD have been given the opportunity to strengthen their position in the state. Notably, when the Modi wave was sweeping the country and the BJP was winning one state after another, his “Vijay Rath” was stopped in Bihar when Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar joined hands and formed the ‘Mahagathbandhan’. These two leaders had brought the BJP to 59 seats in the state in the last election (Third position) despite the strong wave favouring Narendra Modi.
Bihar is a state where the caste factor is more important than any kind of wave. When you see the history of Bihar, whenever two political forces joined hands, they won the election. The 2015 and 2020 assembly polls were examples of it. This time too when the BJP is facing a huge anti-incumbency factor in the country and two political forces have joined hands, the BJP will not stay here. The RJD is now talking about the A to Z party that means Tejashwi Yadav will keep the upper and lower castes together. The RJD has a good hold among Muslims and Yadavs apart from the lower castes.
Nitish Kumar is also known for the Koiri-Kurmi equation. After Upendra Kushwaha came into the JD-U his Kushwaha community also came with the JD-U. So overall, the RJD and the JD-U seem to have the edge over the BJP.
The change of government in Bihar is a political message for all the opposition parties in the country.
Nitish Kumar, after shifting from the NDA to the ‘Mahagathbandhan’, threw a challenge directly to PM Narendra Modi. His bold move against the mighty BJP has encouraged leaders of the opposition parties to try and come under one umbrella and challenge Narendra Modi and the BJP.