New Delhi: A key regional leader broke away from India’s opposition alliance on Sunday and was set to join hands again with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in a major blow to Modi’s challengers months before general elections.
According to local media reports, Nitish Kumar, chief minister of the northern state of Bihar, tendered his resignation to the state governor.
Kumar told news agency ANI that not everything was alright with the alliance.
“Today, I have resigned as the chief minister and I have also told the governor to dissolve the government in the state. This situation came because not everything was alright” Kumar said.
Kumar’s departure weakens India’s opposition parties which had decided to set aside their differences last year to form an alliance called ‘INDIA’ to take on the BJP in general elections due by May.
Kumar was instrumental in bringing together opposition parties to form the 28-party alliance, which includes the main opposition Congress party.
Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh said that the BJP was scared of the alliance and this “political drama had been created” to divert attention.
The alliance was already facing serious turbulence last week with member Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the eastern state of West Bengal and the head of Trinamool Congress party, saying it will contest Bengal alone.
Similarly, another member, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which rules the national capital territory of Delhi and northern state of Punjab, said it will not ally with Congress in Punjab.
Bringing closure to the fast-unravelling political events earlier in the day, Nitish handed his resignation letter to Governor Rajendra Arlekar along with letters of support from the BJP legislators.
Accepting his resignation letter, the Governor requested him to discharge his administrative duties as the caretaker chief minister till the new government takes shape.
Ninth time CM
It is understood that Nitish will take oath as the CM for the ninth time along with two deputy chief ministers from the BJP at the swearing-in ceremony on Sunday.
The oath-taking ceremony is scheduled to be held at 5 in the evening. The BJP and the JD(U) are keen to avoid a power vacuum in a state notorious for its political realignments.
Meanwhile, BJP national president JP Nadda will arrive in Bihar later in the day and will be received at the airport by Union Minister Nityanand Rai and former state party president and MP Sanjay Jaiswal.
Amid rumours that Sushil Modi and Renu Kumari were in the running for deputy CMs after the churn at the husting, the BJP’s spokesperson in the state, Sumit Shashank, told ANI on Sunday that Samrat Choudhary and Vijay Sinha will be sworn in as Nitish’s deputies.
Nitish Kumar, after parting ways with the BJP in 2022, took on the initiative of uniting all opposition forces to jointly take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling party in the national election.
In 2000, Nitish became CM for the first time after campaigning against RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav’s ‘Jungle Raaj’. Till now, he became Bihar’s CM on eight occasions.
In 2013, Nitish broke ranks with the NDA after a 17-year alliance following the announcement of Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
He expressed his displeasure to the BJP over Modi’s selection as the PM face, and after the BJP decided to not change its decision, Kumar left the alliance.
In 2017, Nitish forged a grand alliance with the RJD and Congress and returned as chief minister in 2015.
He walked out of the grand alliance in 2017, accusing the RJD of corruption and choking governance in the state.
In 2022, Nitish Kumar snapped ties with the BJP once again, alleging the BJP was conspiring against him and trying to influence JD-U MLAs to rebel against him.