Nitish Kumar today announced that his deputy Tejashwi Yadav would lead the ruling coalition in the 2025 Bihar election, designating him as his next-in-line and starting the countdown on his own term as Chief Minister.
"I am not the Prime Ministerial candidate or Chief Ministerial candidate. My goal is to defeat the BJP," Nitish Kumar said at a meeting of Bihar's ruling coalition this evening.
"Tejashwi has to be encouraged," the 71-year-old stressed.
Asked by stunned reporters to clarify whether Tejashwi Yadav, 33, would lead the 2025 campaign instead of him, Nitish Kumar emphasised, holding his deputy: "Ekdum karega, samajh gaye na? (Absolutely, he will. Do you understand?)" And walked away.
The eight-time Chief Minister's declaration is significant because apart from declaring RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav as his political heir, Nitish Kumar has also signaled that he is in his last term as Chief Minister.
In recent weeks, Nitish Kumar has said in multiple ways that he has a long-term plan for Tejashwi Yadav, a fierce critic not long ago and the son of his frenemy Lalu Yadav, a former Chief Minister.
"We are doing a lot. And if there's anything left to do in the future, then Tejashwi will keep working and will get it all done. Those who want to divide us, don't try to create trouble at anyone's bidding. We must stay united and work together. There should be no friction," the Chief Minister said on Monday, at the launch of a dental college in Nalanda.
"Tejashwi is here, I have done whatever I could to take him forward, I will take him even further ahead," he said.
If these remarks started a buzz, today's statement left no room for doubt.
Reacting to Mr Kumar's pronouncements, Tejashwi Yadav said: "For now, 2024 (national election) is the goal. Everything else will come after that."
Later, he returned the favour and said he felt pride at serving under "the country's most experienced Chief Minister" and learning from the best. "We are one team and Nitish ji is our captain," he said.
As leader of opposition, Tejashwi Yadav was one of Nitish Kumar's most aggressive baiters, frequently deriding him as a "tired and spent" leader who needs to quit politics. The bitterness dated back to 2017, when Nitish Kumar dropped Tejashwi Yadav as his deputy over corruption allegations, dumped the RJD and revived his alliance with the BJP.
That changed dramatically in August, when Nitish Kumar swapped allies again and formed a new government with the RJD and other opposition parties, making Tejashwi Yadav his deputy for the second time.