August 9 was a day of fast-moving political developments in two states in India. The day started with the NDA seeking to strengthen itself in Maharashtra with the BJP-back government led by Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde going in for a cabinet expansion. On the same day, in Bihar, the BJP was ejected from power. For some time, the opposition was demoralised since the Maharashtra developments, where the BJP successfully engineered a coup in the Shiv Sena leading to the fall of the three-party MVA government. The fall of the MVA regime in Maharashtra impacted the Presidential polls with the NDA candidate defeating the opposition nominee while in the Vice President election too, the same thing was repeated.
Indeed, Nitish Kumar has shifted the spotlight to Bihar. Since 2014 when the BJP came to power, many states like Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh have seen coups where the opposition-led governments were dislodged. The sudden decision by Nitish Kumar to break up with the BJP will give a fillip to the Opposition after the collapse of the MVA government in Maharashtra. Nitish Kumar is set to become Chief Minister again with the help of the RJD – five years after they parted ways. The JD-U has also withdrawn support from the Narendra Modi government at the Centre as well. For BJP, Nitish Kumar’s departure is a loss of another ally and a setback ahead of the 2024 general elections.
Nitish Kumar was meticulously planning to break away from the BJP in Bihar for the past three months. At the same time, he did not antagonise the saffron camp and even extended support to its Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees. The BJP, which was on August 9 checkmated by Nitish Kumar’s JD-U, its oldest ally in the state, didn’t even get the time for damage control. Nitish Kumar’s move which was a reversal of what happened in 2017 when he left the Mahagathbandhan to rejoin the NDA, left ally BJP out in the cold for the second time in nine years.
The new government in Bihar will suit Nitish Kumar more, both in terms of numbers as well as upholding his socialist ideology, which gels with the RJD, Congress and the Left parties. As far as the numbers are concerned, Nitish Kumar will have the support of 165 MLAs from JD-U, RJD, CPI, CPM, CPI-ML and Hindustani Awam Morcha. The Bihar Assembly has 243 seats and requires 122 for any alliance or party to prove the majority and form the government. Nitish Kumar has the support letter signed by all the MLAs of the seven-party grand alliance. The plan was to deny the BJP the opportunity to stake counter claims.
The ‘165’ number will make Nitish Kumar more comfortable to run the government. He would be aiming to give participation to every party in his cabinet to run the government smoothly. Nitish Kumar, Bihar’s longest-serving CM who has been in power for 15 years, could also feel comfortable with Mahagathbandhan due to his socialist image. He is a leader who emerged from the JP movement and worked under Karpoori Thakur. When he went with the BJP, his socialist image was a bit dented. Now that he is set to join Mahagathbandhan, course correction will be one of the focuses for the future.