A pre-poll alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in 2015 to form the government in Bihar, ditching them mid-way in 2017 over corruption charges to ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), only to jump back into RJD’s arms in 2022 — Nitish Kumar's politics of flip-flops continues.
Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Sandeep Shastri, Vice Chancellor at Jagran Lakecity University, said about the Janata Dal United (JDU) chief, “I think it is very clear that in Bihar, Nitish was increasingly suffocated by the fact that he was a junior partner in an alliance. I think the relationship that he had with the BJP, especially in recent times, was not the best of relationships. His belief is that working with the RJD and other parties would be to his advantage.”
Nitish Kumar was sworn in as Bihar CM for a record eighth time, along with Deputy Chief Minister and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav. The swearing-in came a day after Kumar ended his alliance with the BJP and returned to the Mahagathbandhan, an alliance of seven parties, including the RJD, Congress and the Left parties.
Shastri said one has wait and watch how this plays out.
The BJP, still smarting from Kumar's latest U-turn, has criticised Kumar for betraying the mandate of the people. The Bihar CM, on the other hand, has said his decision to walk out of the alliance was based on his interactions with party legislators.
This is the second time that he has severed ties with the BJP. In 2013, he snapped a 17-year-long relationship after Narendra Modi was announced as National Democratic Alliance (NDA's) prime ministerial candidate. He later re-joined the NDA in 2017.
Interestingly, Bihar is the only state in the Hindi heartland where the BJP has never formed a government on its own.
Kumar's PM prospects
Shastri added, “Repeatedly going back and forth, which now Mr Nitish Kumar has done two rounds of, I am not too sure how much that would be supported by the voters, especially when you're looking at a Lok Sabha election two years from now and then Assembly elections three years from now.”
On pitching himself as a prime ministerial candidate for the Opposition, Shastri said, “I think we would be taking a huge jump by saying he is making himself the possible prime ministerial candidate. What is of immediate concern for him was to secure his place in Bihar.”
For the entire discussion, watch the accompanying video