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Nitish Kumar has done it again. He has snapped his party Janata Dal (United)’s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and swung his lot across India’s ideological divide to Bihar’s Lohiaite camp of socialists led by Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Since he was the state’s chief minister with BJP support, Kumar resigned on Tuesday from that position, but only to stake claim to a new government in partnership with the RJD, whose leader Tejashwi Yadav put aside a political grouse to back him. The last time Kumar broke ties with the BJP was in 2013 after the latter chose Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, but the anti-BJP pact that was forged came apart despite an electoral victory, and the status quo ante was restored in Bihar. In the state’s 2020 polls, Kumar retained power as a BJP ally, but relations stayed strained, and the latter’s efforts to occupy his party’s political space appear to have played a role in his lurch back leftwards. Whether his party’s calculated swings back and forth have aided its poll appeal remains doubtful. But it speaks of the opposition disarray in India that Kumar may yet hope to lead a national anti-BJP front in 2024.

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