Home/ Politics / Policy/  Nitish Kumar emerging as a rallying point for anti-BJP forces

New Delhi: The swearing-in ceremony of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Friday may well showcase the emerging anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) political formation.

After it successfully dismantled the BJP challenge in Bihar, the idea of the Grand Alliance forged by Kumar of the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), Lalu Prasad of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress is gaining traction among other political parties.

Ever since the 16th general election in April-May last year, when it swept to power with a majority, the BJP held the political momentum. Till the debacle in Bihar, the only upset the party had suffered was in the Delhi assembly election in February.

Now, for the first time, the opposition is seeing an opportunity for itself.

Kumar’s third term at the helm will be kicked off at an event that will include a star cast of opposition leaders.

According to a tweet by Kumar on Wednesday, chief ministers of at least nine states have confirmed their presence at the ceremony. Top regional leaders include West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Member of Parliament Ram Jethmalani and senior leader of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) Abhay Singh Chautala were also mentioned in the list of guests.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has already confirmed his participation at the event. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, invited for the swearing-in, has decided to skip the ceremony, claiming clashing engagements.

Instead, parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, along with skill development minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, will represent the central government in Patna.

Adding to the BJP’s worries is the fact that Kumar has invited Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray for the event. While Thackeray may not attend the meeting, the Shiv Sena is expected to be represented at the event.

Kumar will take the oath at Patna’s historic Gandhi Maidan.

The cabinet formation, however, poses a challenge, since the RJD, which won highest number of seats, will be entitled to the largest number of portfolios.

“The new government formation will have united JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance, which is the first anti-NDA front. This can definitely threaten the BJP’s support base, but I would say with Prasad being in the alliance, there are uncertainties," said Bidyut Chakrabarty, a professor of political science at Delhi University.

“Prasad wants his younger son to be the deputy chief minister whereas Rabri (Prasad’s wife and former chief minister) wants the elder one to be. On the other hand, senior RJD leaders are against the politics of family government formation. Many RJD leaders have shown their disappointment on Prasad’s inclination towards his family in the new Bihar cabinet, which I think can lead to the fall of the Grand Alliance in the future," he said.

Prasad, who cannot contest elections or be a part of the government due to his 2013 conviction for embezzlement of funds meant for cattle fodder purchase, is back on the political centrestage after a decade.

Senior RJD leaders also expect former Bihar chief minister and Prasad’s wife Rabri Devi to get a Rajya Sabha seat in 2016, with five of the total 16 upper house seats from Bihar falling vacant in July.

The Grand Alliance, led by Kumar, inflicted a massive defeat on the NDA, with the RJD winning 80 seats, JD(U) 71 and the Congress 27 in the 243-member Bihar state assembly.

According to senior leaders of the alliance, the math for the distribution of ministerial posts is one minister for every five seats won by a party. Consequently, as per the present understanding, RJD is expected to get 16 ministerial posts, the JD(U) 15 and Congress five.

“Kumar has invited a number of ministers of the BJP. Venkaiah Naidu and Rajiv Pratap Rudy will attend the ceremony on behalf of Prime Minister Modi. This is the first time where you will see a united opposition in the country. Kumar wanted to invite all prominent leaders just to celebrate the victory of Bihar," senior JD(U) leader Shyam Rajak said.

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Updated: 20 Nov 2015, 12:53 AM IST
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