Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar appears to have made up his mind to part ways with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
Kumar has reportedly told his close colleagues that his exit from the RJD-led ruling mahagathbandhan in Bihar is final.
JD(U) leaders told Swarajya that it is "fairly certain" that Kumar will leave the mahagathbandhan and, by extension, the INDI Alliance, and return to the NDA.
The BJP has laid down some tough preconditions for taking Kumar back into the NDA.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who met senior state leaders of the BJP as well as allies like former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, told them that while Kumar wants to return to the NDA, his re-entry will not be unconditional.
The most important precondition is that Kumar will have to give up the CM's post. In return, he will be made the convenor of the NDA, a post held earlier by his (Kumar's) socialist colleague George Fernandes.
Kumar has also been assured that the Union Government will back his move to dissolve the state assembly and hold state polls simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections.
The Union Home Ministry will request the Governor to accept Kumar's request to dissolve the assembly and the Union Government will also move the Election Commission of India (ECI) to hold assembly and Lok Sabha polls at the same time in Bihar.
Also, while a new NDA government that comes to power in Bihar (assuming the BJP-led NDA will win the state polls) will be headed by a BJP person, Kumar can nominate one person from his party as deputy CM.
Kumar has been promised key portfolios in the state for his party leaders. And besides being made the convenor of the NDA right away, he has also been promised a choice of any portfolio at the federal level except the top four — home, finance, defence and foreign affairs.
But Kumar is still negotiating for the CM's post. He told his close aides that he has already served as the Union Rail Minister and the CM's post is closest to his heart.
The BJP central leadership, however, is firm on not allowing Kumar to become the CM again. Allowing him to become the CM again will leave the door for another U-turn by Kumar open in future. The BJP wants to preclude this possibility altogether.
Another point of contention between Nitish Kumar and the BJP is Chirag Paswan. Kumar doesn't want any truck with Paswan, who he resents for fielding candidates against JD(U) nominees in the last assembly elections in Bihar.
Kumar believes that Paswan's move resulted in the sharp fall in JD(U)'s tally in the 2020 assembly elections and the JD(U) being reduced to a junior partner in the NDA in Bihar.
The JD(U) won 43 seats in the 2020 elections while the BJP bagged 74. In 2015, the BJP had won 53 seats while the JD(U) had bagged 71 seats.
Kumar wants Paswan's party to be kept out of power in the state. But the BJP, which feels that Chirag Paswan has been a good ally, is loath to humour Kumar on this count.
Meanwhile, alarmed over the signals emanating from Kumar, a desperate RJD has been making frenzied efforts to reach out to him.
RJD chief Lalu Yadav is believed to have dialled Kumar a few times in the past 36 hours, but could speak to him only once. While the exact details of the conversation between the two is not known, Yadav is learnt to have told his close party colleagues that they should all get ready for assembly elections that can be held very soon.
Why Kumar Wants To Leave The Mahagathbandhan
While Kumar is unhappy over not being made the convenor of the INDI Alliance of which he was the architect, he is also fed up with the overbearing attitude of the RJD leadership and its constant interference in governance.
Kumar is angry with the RJD for insisting that he steps back from his demand to contest 17 Lok Sabha seats. The RJD wants the JD(U) to settle for 14 seats since it (the RJD) wants a lion's share or 18 or 19 seats and leave the remaining seven to eight seats to the Congress and Left parties.
But the actual reason for Kumar's keenness in returning to the NDA is his assessment that the BJP-led NDA will return to power with a huge majority at the Centre.
Kumar realises that the INDI Alliance has no chance of coming to power and will suffer an embarrassing defeat.
A secret but informal survey commissioned by Kumar recently revealed that the mahagathbandhan's prospects in the next assembly elections in Bihar are also dim. The survey’s findings were corroborated by disturbing ground reports received by Kumar from district-level functionaries of his party.
The much-touted caste survey that was carried out in Bihar will not garner much electoral dividends and the BJP stands a good chance of forming the next government in the state along with its allies, feels Kumar.
Kumar, a shrewd politician with his fingers firmly on the pulse of the people, is alarmed over the findings of the survey.
Kumar is also very ambitious and does not want to lose power in the state. He also knows that if he remains part of the mahagathbandhan which loses power in the state, there is a strong possibility of a large number of his party leaders and workers joining the BJP. And the RJD will also take away a chunk of his party.
That is why Kumar is now keen on returning to the NDA. He has reportedly given his solemn word to the BJP leadership that he will never leave the NDA in future, but the BJP is unwilling to take him at his word.
That is why the BJP is insisting that while he will be made the convenor of the NDA and be given adequate powers, but he cannot become the CM once again.
Hectic negotiations are currently going on between representatives of both the parties on these conditions.
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