There is no question of replacing Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister of Bihar, the BJP said today, a day after it one-upped its ally for the first time in elections in the state.
The BJP won 74 of Bihar's 243 seats, taking the NDA's tally past the majority mark, while Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United was restricted to 43.
With Nitish Kumar losing Big Brother status in Bihar and the BJP gaining an upper hand for the first time in the state where it has never had a Chief Minister, there have been questions about the top job.
"Nitishji will remain Chief Minister as it was our commitment. There is no confusion on this," the BJP's Sushil Kumar Modi and Deputy Chief Minister said today.
In an election, he added, "some win more and some win less". "But we are equal partners," Sushil Modi said.
The BJP has never ruled Bihar on its own and could not have retained power in the state without Nitish Kumar. But the results give the BJP leverage. Sources say in Nitish Kumar's fourth term, the balance of power is likely to be different.
A big contributor to the changed equations is Chirag Paswan, an NDA partner who put up candidates against Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United (JDU) and is believed to have caused maximum damage to the Chief Minister.
Chirag Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) ended up with just one seat but in all others it contested, it ate into the votes of the JDU, causing its tally to drop from 2015. There has been speculation throughout this election that Chirag Paswan's revolt against Nitish Kumar had the BJP's blessings. Many assessed yesterday that junior Paswan, whose father Ram Vilas Paswan was a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, had come through for the BJP and helped diminish Nitish Kumar's standing.
Chirag Paswan himself said today: "Yes, like all parties, I too would like to win as many seats as possible, but my aim for these elections was to ensure that the BJP emerges a stronger party in the state and we are happy with the impact we have had." Before this, the LJP leader had always said his main target was Nitish Kumar's defeat.
The BJP has firmly denied any secret understanding with Chirag Paswan. Sushil Modi admitted that the LJP damaged Janata Dal United candidates on more than 20 seats. But he said: "Whether he will remain in the NDA central leadership, we will have to take a call, but he's not part of the NDA in Bihar."
The BJP's Bihar chief, Sanjay Jaiswal, added: "There is no doubt Nitish Kumar is our chief minister, there is no question of a rethink , there is no question of a junior or senior partner in an alliance."