Nitish Kumar resigned as Bihar chief minister after splitting with Lalu Prasad over corruption charges against the latter's son but will regain the post in less than 24 hours, this time with BJP's support.
The saffron party came to the JD(U) boss's assistance as part of a script which he and PM Modi had prepared well in advance. West Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, who also holds charge of Bihar, had been stationed in Patna to facilitate Nitish's swearing-in as CM for the fifth time. BJP's parliamentary board, which happened to be in session around the same time to finalise nominees for the RS polls, came in handy and promptly endorsed the move to support steps to “avoid mid-term polls in Bihar“.
Nitish reached Raj Bhavan at 11.55 pm, with MLAs from BJP , RLSP, LJP and HAM(S), to stake claim to form the government.
BJP joining a Nitish-led government will revive the coalition that worked till 2013 when it split over Nitish's resistance to the projection of Modi as BJP's PM pick for the 2014 polls. The realignment can create complications for Congress and others, and strengthen an effort to reinforce the “secular“ alliance by bringing in new players like SP and BSP. Modi, said to be behind the rapprochement, hailed Nitish for his stand against corruption.
Modi's praise for Nitish was seen as an indication of BJP's gameplan to turn the 2019 polls into a referendum on corruption.
Ties between Nitish and Lalu, which got strained over the CM's insistence that the RJD boss's son and deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav came clean on corruption charges against him, snapped on Wednesday when Lalu got the entire RJD flock to endorse his stand that Tejashwi, his putative successor, need not heed Nitish's demand for a rejoinder to each specific charge of corruption.
The CBI and Enforcement Directorate have accused Tejashwi of acquiring assets worth several crores despite having no known source of income.
Lalu's rebuff turned out to be the catalyst for dramatic developments to unfold at a dizzying pace. JD(U) promptly backed the CM who announced his resignation, playing the victim card and taking the moral high ground.
However, the resignation did not herald a walk towards opposition benches. If Nitish's return to NDA within a space of hours looked surreal, efforts for it had been on for since early this year when Lalu's emissaries offered a deal to a senior Union minister where they promised to bring down Nitish in exchange for the Centre's help with court cases facing the RJD boss.
Suspicions of a possible effort to poach Nitish's MLAs deepened the distrust, creating an opening for Modi to build upon the first step the CM had taken by breaking ranks with the opposition to support demonetisation.