Masterstroke or a strategic error?
July 27, 2017 | Expert Insights
Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar has been sworn in as the chief minister of Bihar.
In less than 24 hours, Kumar resigned as the CM, broke away from the alliance and forged a new partnership with the BJP, his erstwhile ally. The frenetic pace at which the events unfolded has rocked national politics.
In July 2014, Nitish Kumar formed a grand alliance (also called Mahagathbandhan) along with Rashtriya Janata Dal’s leader Lalu Prasad Yadav. He had been part of the NDA government previously but broke ranks in 2013. In November 2015, the Mahagathbandhan won the state elections with a massive majority. Nitish Kumar was sworn in as chief minister.
But cracks began to appear in the partnership between Kumar and Yadav. In the first half of 2016, RJD leadership openly blamed Kumar for the deteriorating law and order in the state. Around this time, Kumar showed signs of a friendlier relationship with the NDA government. He was the first leader of an opposition party who supported the government in the surgical strikes carried out on Pakistan and also complimented the government on demonetization.
Additionally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2016, praised Kumar at an official event. Kumar also supported Ram Nath Kovind’s bid for presidency despite the fact, he had been nominated by the NDA.
When Sonia Gandhi hosted a luncheon for opposition parties in June 2017, Kumar was noticeably absent.
Kumar's resignation came just hours after Bihar’s deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, son of RJD chief Lalu Prasad refused to resign. He has been accused by the CBI in a land-for-hotels scam. Prasad supported his son. Citing irreconcilable differences, he went to the governor’s office to hand in his resignation.
Immediately the prime minister praised Kumar for taking a stand against corruption. Four years after breaking his partnership with BJP, he again joined hands with the NDA. Under the new alliance, he once again took the oath as the Chief Minister of Bihar. At the time he said, “My commitment is for the people of Bihar and for the development of Bihar. The decision is in Bihar's interest and for its development. This is a collective decision. I will continue to serve the people of Bihar.”
The development seemed to catch the opposition parties off guard. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi expressed his anger. Critics have noted that Kumar had dishonored the mandate that was given to him by the people of Bihar through state elections. Kumar, for his part, has maintained that he will explain his actions in time.
Members within JD(U) have also criticized Kumar’s decision. M P Veerendra Kumar and Ali Anwar have openly voiced their opposition. One of the most senior members of the party, Sharad Yadav, has not issued any public statement regarding the events but reports have emerged that he too is upset.
However, Kumar won the trust vote in the Assembly 131 votes against 108 votes.
Our assessment is that the latest political developments bode well for the NDA government under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi. However, it will be important to know whether this move has estranged him from the people who voted for Mahagathbandhan. We believe that the road ahead for Mr Kumar will be a bit bumpy, especially if there is a split in the party. The RJD-led alliance would need about 15 MLAs to topple Kumar’s government.