Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose Janata Dal United has suffered a body blow in the state elections due to the Chirag Paswan factor, Thursday said he has left the decision regarding the Lok Janshakti Party chief to the BJP. The decision on who will be the Chief Minister has to be taken by the NDA, he said in response to a question, indicating that the issue might be revisited despite the BJP's earlier assurances that he would retain the post.
Chirag Paswan's rebellion against his leadership and the decision to go solo has relegated Mr Kumar to the position of junior partner in the decades-old alliance with the BJP. Though Mr Paswan's LJP had won only one seat, Mr Kumar said his separate presence has cut into JDU votes, leading to the loss of nearly 30 seats.
From 71 seats in 2015, the JDU has shrunk to 43 seats, in what has been a huge loss of face for the three-time Chief Minster, making him dependent on the BJP for a long-desired fourth term.
The BJP, which had lost the alliance with Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra over a disagreement over the top post, has maintained since beginning that Mr Kumar will remain its Chief Minister in Bihar.
Even after the results, its leaders have reiterated that Mr Kumar will retain his position.
But the poor performance of his party has also triggered murmurs from a section in the BJP who contend that the position should no longer be considered a given.
Much also depends on whether Chirag Paswan is allowed back into the alliance and the government in the state. The 37-year-old had rebelled against Mr Kumar's leadership and contested solo, saying his aim was a "Nitish-mukt Bihar" where he would form government in alliance with the BJP.
Asked about the issue, Mr Kumar said, "It is up to the BJP to decide fate of those who cut votes," indicating deep misgivings regarding the BJP's non-action on the issue.