Chief Minister Nitish Kumar with Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD after meeting the Governor in Patna.
Hours after dumping the BJP to get back with the RJD, Bihar Chief Minister today said the new 'Mahagathbandhan' or Grand Alliance has seven partners, and thus the numbers to take power. "We have 164 MLAs, who have all signed the letter of support," he said after meeting the Governor, with RJD's Tejashwi Yadav by his side.
Asked why he walked out the BJP-led NDA, Nitish Kumar said, "Our party unanimously wanted to exit that alliance." Speaking in short sentences punctuated by smiles and sweeping hand gestures, he said he "never allowed corruption", and "we want brotherhood in society".
About the revived alliance, he said, "Now, in the future, we'll remain together." On Opposition unity against the BJP across the country, he said, "Whatever we need to do in other states, we'll keep doing."
RJD's Tejashwi Yadav called Nitish Kumar "the most experienced CM in the country", further fueling political analysis that the race really is for who'll be PM candidate for the Opposition in 2024.
Speaking first, Nitish Kumar ignored the question about his prime ministerial ambitions. He limited himself to "basic things", and then pointed to his left, at Tejashwi Yadav: "He will tell you everything else."
A buoyant Mr Yadav then launched into an attack on the BJP.
"The BJP only knows how to divide people on communal lines," Mr Yadav said. "Look at what it does to allies. It tries to finish them off. Look at Punjab. Look at Maharashtra. And that was the plan in Bihar too. It's no secret."
He slammed BJP chief JP Nadda who — during a recent Patna visit — spoke of "finishing off regional parties". "How can he say such a thing in Bihar, the motherland of democracy? He wants to finish off all opposition, which means finishing off democracy."
"That's why the BJP is losing allies. They have no one left with them in the Hindi belt, for instance," he added.
Claiming that "the country has had enough of BJP's communal narrative", he underlined that his father Lalu Prasad Yadav, as chief minister, had arrested BJP's LK Advani and stopped his 'Rath Yatra' during the Ayodhya-Ram Temple movement. Lalu Yadav, on bail after conviction in fodder scam cases, is recuperating in Delhi after a shoulder fracture.
"We are socialists. All of us want that the BJP's agenda shouldn't be implemented in Bihar," Tejashwi Yadav said.
He cited price rise, unemployment and the Chinese aggression on the border as well. "They (BJP's central government) have failed on all fronts. That's the feeling across the country."
For Nitish Kumar, this was his second meeting with the Governor within a few hours as he earlier handed him his resignation. He then went to meet the RJD leader and they together went to the Governor to seek a chance to form a new government.
The BJP has accused Nitish Kumar of "betraying the mandate of the people" by switching partners mid-term.
But this is not unexpected from Nitish Kumar, who has a track record of ideological flexibility.
The realignment today came after Nitish Kumar and Tejashwi Yadav developed the idea over the last few months, signs of which were visible in gestures and silences. This morning, Nitish Kumar told his MLAs of the decision to break up with the BJP, after accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party of trying to split the JDU. Around the same time, Tejashwi Yadav met with his MLAs to formally agree to a tie-up with Nitish Kumar for a return to power.
Nitish Kumar submitted his resignation to the Governor by 4 pm.
Even after the flip, numbers stack up fine for him. The RJD is the largest party in the Vidhan Sabha, with 79 MLAs. Add that to JDU's 45, and they comfortably reach the majority mark of 122 in a House of 243. The alliance includes the Congress's 19, besides some from other parties and at least one Independent — in fact, the math was never a hurdle for such a realignment.
The BJP has 77 MLAs, which will make it the principal opposition party. Despite having more MLAs than the JDU, the BJP had given the top post to Nitish Kumar. And the RJD is doing the same, showing how his personality remains a key factor in the state's politics.
For Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav, this reunion is the latest turn in their decades-long association that's seen them fight and make up several times. Both emerged as young leaders in the 1970s from Jayaprakash Narayan's movement. They first split up in the 1990s as Nitish Kumar chose to partner with the BJP.
Until 2015, Nitish Kumar was in partnership with the BJP — serving as Union Minister too — though friction had set in by 2013, as it became clear that Narendra Modi would emerge as the BJP's main leader for the 2014 Lok Sabha contest. Nitish Kumar's primary point of discomfort was Narendra's Modi past, mainly the Gujarat riots of 2002.
In 2015 elections, the JDU partnered with the RJD and Congress to win Bihar. They billed it as a victory of secular principles. With Nitish Kumar as boss, Tejashwi Yadav became deputy chief minister; his brother Tej Pratap Yadav, a minister too.
But Nitish Kumar went back to the BJP in 2017 citing "corruption". The JDU and BJP together won the 2020 elections.
Two years later, we have the 'Mahagathbandhan 2.0' which — according to Nitish Kumar's math — is stronger than the 2015 version.