Nitish Kumar resigns in fatal blow to Grand Alliance, may return as Bihar CM with BJP support

 

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar resigned on Wednesday, virtually torpedoing the so-called Grand Alliance and setting up a possible new ruling partnership with the Bharatiya Janata Party. (LIVE UPDATES)

Kumar’s surprise decision came hours after ally Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad ruled out the resignation of his son and deputy chief minister Tejashwi, who is facing an investigation over an alleged land-for-hotels scandal.

Within minutes of Kumar’s announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated him and indicated the BJP could lend him support to form a new government in Bihar. Kumar too hinted that he was open to all options in the interest of the state.

“They would have grown in stature had they explained, resigned. But they have lost an opportunity to re-engage with the people,” Kumar said, referring to Lalu and his son’s alleged involvement in corruption.

“They have their way, I have mine. I will move consistently on mine. There was no way this could continue,” Kumar said, adding he had to listen to his “voice of conscience”.

Almost on cue, Lalu accused Kumar of wrecking their Grand Alliance, which had handed the BJP a drubbing in the 2015 state elections, and was seen by many as a possible opposition template to challenge Modi at the 2019 national election.

Lalu said Kumar’s move was pre-planned, and that the chief minister was under pressure because he was facing murder charges.

“I say this with great responsibility, that Nitish Kumar is charged with crime and the case is with the lower judiciary,” Lalu said.

“The Prime Minister’s tweet on the heels of the resignation indicates how strong this conspiracy was to destabilise the alliance.”

Kumar’s unexpected move throws politics in Bihar into chaos with no party having a majority in the 243-member Assembly. Kumar’s JD (U) has 71 seats, while RJD has 80 lawmakers and the BJP 53. The move is also likely to shake up national politics.

For now, a BJP-backed Nitish Kumar government was the most likely possibility.

Bihar BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi made it clear, extending support.

“I called up Nitish Kumar and said we have faith in his leadership and we will extend support to the government under him,” Sushil Modi said.

“We will meet the governor to apprise him of our support,” he said, adding the modalities would be worked out later.

Lalu, his son and their family are under investigations for allegedly acquiring wealth through dubious deals, including prime land in Patna as a quid pro quo for hotel maintenance contracts to private firms when the RJD chief was the railway minister. All of them deny the charges.

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