Bihar’s Kingmaker, Nitish Kumar, Back in the Saffron Fold: A Dance of Alliances and Power Play

Nitish Kumar, the enigmatic political maestro of Bihar, has once again defied expectations by returning to the BJP-led NDA fold, marking his ninth stint as the Chief Minister of the state. This dramatic shift, barely 18 months after his acrimonious exit from the alliance, sends shockwaves through Bihar’s political landscape, leaving observers and opponents scrambling to decipher the motives behind this latest twist.

Nitish Kumar’s Ninth Stint

The swearing-in ceremony, held on Sunday, was a spectacle of contrasting energies. While supporters erupted in jubilant chants of “Jai Shri Ram,” Nitish Kumar, known for his stoic demeanour, offered a sombre explanation for his decision. “Things were not going well,” he declared, hinting at the fractured nature of the Mahagathbandhan, the multi-party coalition he had forged with the RJD and Congress in August 2022.

Nitish Kumar

The cracks within the Mahagathbandhan were no secret. Power struggles, ideological differences, and the spectre of corruption allegations had gnawed at the alliance’s unity. Nitish Kumar, once again, found himself caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. He faced accusations of being beholden to the RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, whose own image remained tainted by graft charges. Additionally, the Congress’s lacklustre performance and internal discord further hampered any semblance of stability within the Mahagathbandhan.

Bihar’s Political Landscape in Turmoil

With his back seemingly against the wall, Nitish Kumar made the audacious decision to return to the NDA. This move, however, wasn’t without its own set of calculations. The BJP, buoyed by its strong showing in the 2020 Bihar Assembly elections, remained a formidable force. Nitish Kumar, aware of his own party’s waning fortunes (JD(U) holds only 45 seats compared to the BJP’s 78), likely saw the NDA as a life raft, a chance to consolidate power and secure his political future.

The BJP, in turn, welcomed Nitish Kumar with open arms. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself took to social media to congratulate the Chief Minister, touting the NDA’s commitment to “fulfil people’s aspirations and work for the state’s development.” The saffron party, undoubtedly, sees Nitish Kumar’s return as a strategic coup. His astute political acumen and administrative experience could prove invaluable in bolstering the NDA’s hold on Bihar, particularly in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

‘Khela Abhi Baaki Hai’ in Bihar’s Political Arena

But Nitish Kumar’s latest switch has also drawn sharp criticism. His detractors accuse him of being a political chameleon, constantly shifting alliances and ideologies for personal gain. They point to his five-time flip-flop between the BJP and the RJD since 2013 as proof of his opportunism and lack of conviction.

Tejashwi Yadav, the RJD leader and former Deputy Chief Minister, dismissed Nitish Kumar’s claims of a dysfunctional Mahagathbandhan as mere pretext. “Khela abhi baaki hai,” he declared, suggesting that the game is far from over. He pointed to the RJD’s larger share of MLAs (79 compared to JD(U)’s 45) and its contribution to key policy initiatives like the distribution of job letters, as evidence of its commitment to the alliance and the people of Bihar.

Bihar’s Game of Thrones

Yadav’s defiance reflects the volatile undercurrents within Bihar’s political landscape. The Mahagathbandhan, despite its unceremonious breakup, still holds a significant number of seats in the Assembly. The Congress, stung by Nitish Kumar’s betrayal, may also choose to play the role of a spoiler in the upcoming elections.

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The political chess game in Bihar has entered a new, complex phase. Nitish Kumar’s return to the NDA has undoubtedly altered the power dynamics, but it is far from a guaranteed checkmate. The RJD, the Congress, and other opposition forces remain formidable players, and the battle for Bihar’s political soul is far from over.

As the dust settles on this dramatic political manoeuvre, one thing remains clear: Bihar’s political landscape is a constant state of flux, defined by shifting alliances, personal ambitions, and the ever-present shadow of the Lok Sabha elections. Nitish Kumar, the enigmatic kingmaker, may have made his move, but the ultimate winner in this complex game of thrones remains to be seen.

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