Nitish Kumar takes oath as Bihar Chief Minister for seventh time in 2 a long time

Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 16

Nitish Kumar was on Monday sworn in as the Chief Minister of Bihar for the seventh time in two decades, in presence of top leaders of the NDA, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda, but as political observers said, with “diminished clout and strength”.

The BJP, which won as many as 74 seats to emerge as top scorer in the NDA team, has given him two deputies Tarkishore Prasad (Katihar MLA) and Renu Devi (Bettiah MLA) in place of Sushil Modi whose resettlement plans are still under wraps.

Kumar was sworn at a ceremony attended by top BJP leaders including Home Minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda.

The selection of senior leaders Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi is aimed to infuse freshness in Bihar leadership and send a clear message to the cadres.

They suit the critical caste combinations as also the party’s aim to revamp, expand and form the next government on its own in the state.

“The BJP was portrayed as a party of upper castes and Prasad and Renu Devi represent underprivileged sections. The move is also an indication that things are not going to be the same, there was too much proximity between Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi and obviously the central leadership also wanted to change the status quo. It is a new beginning for Bihar BJP,” observers said.

While the BJP dabbles in caste chemistry to expand beyond the traditional upper caste support base, the selection of Renu Devi is also being seen as an effort to engage women voters who are believed to have supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi majorly in these elections. 

So far as four-time deputy CM Sushil Modi is concerned, speculations are he may be accommodated in the Narendra Modi Cabinet in the Centre via the Rajya Sabha or sent to a Raj Bhavan.

Meanwhile, induction of JD(U)’s Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, who was the Speaker in the Assembly for past five years, proves the BJP’s hard bargain for the post.

The NDA bagged 125 seats in the 243-member assembly. Individually the saffron party won 31 more seats than 43 of Kumar’s JD(U), which had 71 MLAs in 2015. 

Though detractors believe BJP managed to wrest power with help of smart permutations and combinations and ‘vote katua’ strategy “otherwise how could Tejashwi Yadav, despite a larger share, end up with no power”.

With 75 MLAs, RJD is the single largest party. In terms of vote share also the RJD topped with 23.1 per cent followed by the BJP at 19.5 per cent, 15.4 per cent of the JD (U) and others at 18.8 per cent.

The difference of votes between NDA and ‘mahagathbandhan’ is of a few thousand.

Smart strategising by central leadership, Shah, Nadda, Bhupendra Yadav, not just managed to get BJP the lead but become the dominant force in the NDA.

“Nitish Kumar may no longer have the same say as earlier with Sushil Modi who was almost seen as his aide,” say observers.

Though senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have endorsed Nitish Kumar, speculations continue to do rounds about the viability of the new government.

Meanwhile, apart from Kumar, Prasad and Renu Devi, five MLAs from BJP and JD(U) and one each from HAM and VIP were sworn in the Cabinet which may be expanded at a later stage. The new ministers include Mukesh Sahni, the president of VIP which won four seats though he lost, and Santosh Kumar Suman, whose father Jitan Ram Manjhi is former CM and president of HAM.

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