Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge's residence, in New Delhi, April 12, 2023.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge's residence, in New Delhi, April 12, 2023.(File Photo | PTI)

Speculation mounts over Nitish Kumar's U-turn to reunite with BJP amid rift with 'INDIA' bloc

BJP has been showing signs of warming up to Kumar, who has swapped his alliance preference between the saffron party and the RJD-Congress-Left camp frequently while remaining in power

NEW DELHI: Signs of deepening fissures between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his INDIA bloc allies have given rise to the possibility of his return to the BJP fold amid hectic efforts within the opposition camp to stall any such development.

On a day RJD president Lalu Prasad's daughter Rohini Acharya took a swipe at Kumar for "changing his ideology as the wind changes its direction" in posts on 'X' following the JD(U) president's swipe at parties promoting family members in politics, a BJP leader well-versed with the state's politics said the party will be guided by its future political imperatives, and not past bitterness.

He, however, noted that any call has to be taken by the party's top brass.

Bihar BJP president Samrat Choudhary arrived in the national capital in the evening to meet senior party leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah.

The BJP has been showing signs of warming up to Kumar, who has swapped his alliance preference between the saffron party and the RJD-Congress-Left camp frequently while remaining in power, with its leaders toning down their criticism of him of late and even praising him at times.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah himself sounded more open to such a possibility in a recent interview. Asked about the likelihood of the Janata Dal (U) president's return to the BJP-led alliance, Shah said the party will consider if such a proposal is ever made.

Earlier, Shah had often asserted that the doors had been closed for Kumar's return to the country's ruling alliance.

Bihar's longest-serving chief minister has been cut up with the INDIA bloc for not getting a position in the alliance commensurate with his stature and also favours an early assembly poll to go with the Lok Sabha elections, a suggestion which has not drawn a positive response from the RJD, the biggest party in the state's ruling alliance, sources said.

JD(U) and RJD leaders have also been sniping at each other amid apprehensions among Kumar's supporters that their ally has been trying to undermine him in matters of governance as well as politics.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge's residence, in New Delhi, April 12, 2023.
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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge's residence, in New Delhi, April 12, 2023.
Fissures in grand-alliance as Nitish takes jibe at Lalu

Kumar's decision to take over as the party president by cutting short the tenure of Lalan Singh was seen as a determined effort by him to take firm control of its organisation amid suggestions by a section of JD(U) leaders that the chief minister's confidant may have grown too close to the RJD or was pursuing an independent agenda.

The RJD has, however, taken some placatory moves by first agreeing to the relegation of Education Minister Chandra Shekhar to the relatively insignificant portfolio of sugarcane industries.

Acharya also deleted her posts targeting the chief minister without naming him, hours after putting them out. The Bihar BJP accused Acharya, who does not hold any position in the RJD, of insulting Kumar and demanded an apology from her.

The INDIA bloc has been marred by incoherence and distrust, with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann dealing twin blows on Wednesday that their parties, the TMC and AAP respectively, will go solo in the Lok Sabha elections expected in April-May.

Signs of disconnect among the INDIA parties in Bihar will suit the BJP in the run-up to the elections as the same alliance had handed it a big defeat in the 2015 assembly polls before Kumar joined hands again with the BJP-led NDA, which then swept the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

He vaulted into the opposition's alliance in 2022 as the BJP grew increasingly assertive following his party's sub-par performance in the 2020 assembly polls.

With Kumar's critics both within the opposition and the BJP being of the view that he has diminished as a political force, experts say it will be interesting to see how the shrewd leader manages to close out yet another round of political gamesmanship as the elections approach

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