NDTV Explains: The ‘Final Straw’ – A Tweet – That Led To Shock Nitish Kumar Move

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar set the cat among the pigeons Thursday – first snubbing an invitation to join Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra‘, and then leaving the Congress-led INDIA bloc on edge by reaching out to the BJP. By the end of the day, Nitish Kumar – credited with coaxing the opposition into the unlikely alliance – was closer to re-aligning with the saffron party, which he dumped less than two years ago, than realising his dream of ousting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This morning sources told NDTV Nitish Kumar is now hours from confirming re-allying with the BJP. He has cancelled all engagements for Sunday and the two parties are close to a deal on dividing cabinet berths and Lok Sabha seats.

There were several factors that will have led to the mercurial Janata Dal (United) boss’ fifth flip-flop in a decade – one that will most likely reshape the political landscape in the BJP’s favour. Among these, sources have told NDTV, is increasing friction between the JDU and its (for now) ally in the state government – Lalu Prasad Yadav‘s Rashtriya Janata Dal.

The final straw, sources said, was a social media attack on the Chief Minister by Mr Yadav’s daughter, Rohini Acharya.

Nitish Kumar’s Clash With Lalu Yadav’s RJD

Sources said Nitish Kumar has been upset with the RJD for some time and blames his ally – which holds key ministries like Law – for impacting governance. He has also criticised RJD ministers for taking ‘important decisions’ without consulting him.

Sources also said that issue may have rumbled on a little longer had Ms Acharya not taken a pot-shot at Nitish Kumar on X.

She had responded sharply to a comment about dynastic politics; she did not name Nitish but the import was clear.

READ | Lalu Yadav’s Daughter’s Jibe At Nitish Kumar Amid ‘Dynastic Politics’ Row

She later deleted the posts but the damage, it seems, had been done, even if Nitish Kumar’s party quickly clarified that his comments were not aimed at the RJD or Lalu Yadav; two of the RJD patriarch’s sons are members of Nitish Kumar’s cabinet – Tejashwi Yadav is the Deputy Chief Minister and Tej Pratap Yadav is the Environment, Forests, and Climate Change Minister.

The BJP did not join the attack. It backed Nitish Kumar, insisting Ms Acharya had insulted him and demanded she apologise.

READ | “Lalu Yadav’s Daughter Must Apologise To Nitish Kumar”: BJP’s Telling Move

It later emerged that BJP spox and leaders had been instructed to refrain from targeting the JDU boss.

Ms Acharya’s post and the alleged governance issues weren’t the only JDU-RJD flashpoints. In November last year there were posters hailing Tejashwi Yadav as a “future Chief Minister”. These cropped up just as discord between Nitish Kumar and the INDIA bloc began to bubble to the surface, with the former jabbing the Congress over delayed seat-share talks. 

READ | Posters Calling Tejashwi Yadav ‘Future Chief Minister’ Put Up In Patna

And that is another big reason why Nitish Kumar is on the verge of (yet another) U-turn.

Nitish Kumar And The INDIA Bloc

The INDIA bloc is largely a creation of Nitish Kumar, who crisscrossed the country to pull together opposition parties, including those not always friendly with the Congress. Therefore, when the bloc chose not to recognise him as a potential PM candidate – drawing sarcastic jibes from the BJP’s Sushil Kumar Modi, his former deputy – he was miffed. 

Source have said he also questioned the Congress’ focus on Mr Gandhi’s Yatra, instead of working with its allies to divide seats (a thorny issue with disagreements in Bengal, Punjab, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh) and prep Lok Sabha poll campaigns.

NDTV Exclusive | Nitish Kumar’s Decision Spurred By This Moment At INDIA Meeting

A squabble over naming a Convenor also upset Nitish Kumar, whose nomination (by a majority) was rejected by Rahul Gandhi – who took Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee’s name – and not overruled Congress boss Mallikarjun Kharge.

What Now For Nitish Kumar?

Sources said that if Nitish Kumar does re-ally with the BJP, he will stay as Chief Minister till the next Assembly election – in 2025. The two parties will then contest that election together.

They will also contest the Lok Sabha poll together, which gives the BJP an edge in a politically key state. Bihar sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha, the most of any state except for Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Bengal. In 2019 the BJP-JDU combine won 33 seats, with the six won by the late Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party meaning the NDA swept the state.

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