PATNA: It is now a foregone conclusion that the engineer-turned-socialist Nitish Kumar, 69, will stay at the helm of the NDA-led Bihar for the seventh time as laid down in the partnership agreement with the BJP.
Now, all eyes are now on the formation of the next government which will likely be sworn in soon after the Diwali festivities get over later this week, informed sources said here on Wednesday.
Kumar, who looks on course to becoming the longest serving chief minister of the state during his new term, was expected to take oath on or after Monday next week before which he will send his resignation to the governor since his current tenure expires at the end of November.
For the record, he has already made it clear that this was his last election. He would be the longest serving CM if he were to complete his term. But records apart, his present job is going to be much more difficult as political equations have changed: the JD-U with 43 seats is now a junior partner of ally BJP with 74 seats.
Upon being administered the oath of office, Kumar will also hold the distinction of having been sworn in seven times as chief minister in two decades.
Speculations about the BJP reneging on its promise of backing Kumar as the chief minister following its own impressive performance were put paid to at a late night press conference on Tuesday.
At the press conference, convened around midnight when trends made it clear that the NDA will get a comfortable majority, the party's national general secretary in-charge of the state Bhupendra Yadav, Bihar unit chief Sanjay Jaiswal, Union minister Nityanand Rai and Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi had reiterated that Kumar will be the chief minister again.
They evidently had the backing of the party's top leadership, of which Kumar himself dropped ample hints.
"The people are our lord. I salute them for the support which enabled the NDA to get a majority. I am also thankful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the cooperation I have been receiving," Kumar tweeted in Hindi, on Wednesday evening.
At stake is his image of being a ‘sushasan-babu’ (Mr Good Governance). Jobs, petty bureaucratic corruption and maintaining the development tempo without compromising on law & order would be his main tasks.
The most difficult and immediate task for him would be on the employment front. Looming before him, on the one hand, is his arch rival RJD’s promise of providing 10 lakh jobs.
And alongside is ally BJP’s promise of creating 19 lakh jobs. These promises reflect the aspirations of a vast section of the youth rendered jobless following Covid pandemic and others who have no avenues to earn a decent living.
Unemployment rose to 46.6% in April this year, according to a survey by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). That figure means 6 crore jobless individuals. The figure is almost double the national rate of 23.5%.
Raj Kumar, an educationist, says Nitish’s job becomes even more difficult given the saffron party’s numerical superiority.
“The BJP would obviously march on with its own Hindutva agenda, including the new citizenship laws, which would clash with Nitish’s agenda,” says Raj Kumar.
Despite sharing power with BJP for nearly 13 years, Nitish has managed to have his way amid RSS’s pulls and pressures.
For instance, he got a resolution passed by the Assembly on the National Population Register despite BJP’s opposition. He also strongly allayed fears among the minorities about the Citizenship Amendment Act.
“Nitish will again have to tread very cautiously,” said Nirbhay Kumar, a retired political science teacher.
“The BJP needs Nitish Kumar as much as he needs the former. He must convert his party’s numerical weakness into strength. He has 34 MLAs backing him, whose support BJP would always require to stay in power,” said Dr RK Verma, a political analyst.
Nitish's political journey so far
He first took oath as chief minister in 2000 when the state threw up a hung assembly but resigned a few days later for want of adequate number of MLAs backing him.
In 2005, he became the chief minister after the NDA secured a full majority, and returned to power five years later.
In 2014, he stepped down owning moral responsibility for the JD(U)'s debacle in the Lok Sabha elections but returned as the CM less than a year later.
In November 2015, the Grand Alliance comprising the JD(U), RJD and the Congress, which declared him as its chief ministerial candidate, won the assembly elections and Kumar was again sworn in.
In July, 2017 he stepped down heeding his "inner voice" which had been tormenting him over his then deputy Tejashwi Yadav's name cropping up in a money laundering case.
Kumar was, however, sworn in again the very next day when he formed a new government with the BJP.
(With PTI Inputs)