Nitish Kumar cited his ‘no-corruption’ plank in July 2017 to pull out of an alliance with the Lalu Prasad-led RJD which was in power and join hands overnight with the BJP to remain the Bihar chief minister. The charges then were against Lalu’s son and deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav.
Five years later, as political corridors are abuzz with talks of Kumar again contemplating switching sides and tying up with the RJD, the corruption taint against the party has intriguingly only deepened. Lalu Prasad now stands convicted in five fodder scam cases, with four convictions coming since July 2017. He has spent most of these years in jail before getting bail last year. Lalu’s key aide Bhola Yadav was recently arrested by CBI in a corruption case dating to the time Lalu Prasad was Union Railway Minister.
There has been little progress in the cases lodged against Tejashwi Yadav that the RJD says were a result of “political vendetta unleashed through agencies”. RJD leaders were also quick to say in 2017 too that the ‘anti-corruption’ plank of Kumar was a farce and the real reason for Kumar was to remain in power as he had stitched an alliance with Lalu Prasad in 2015 though the latter was already convicted in 2013 in the first fodder scam case. The JDU-RJD alliance stormed to power in Bihar in 2015.
BJP leaders say the alliance is intact and they performed all ‘alliance dharma’ with Home Minister Amit Shah announcing that BJP will fight 2024 Lok Sabha elections in an alliance with JDU in Bihar, and making Kumar the CM in 2020 despite BJP getting far more seats than the JDU. “We don’t believe the alliance is breaking but Kumar will have a hard time explaining why he is tying up with a party whose leader has corruption convictions in five cases, if Kumar does it at all,” a Bihar BJP leader told News18.
Kumar’s party has, however, stayed non-committal on an alliance with BJP in Bihar in 2024 and also has opted not to have participation in the Union Cabinet from its ranks. What has further strained ties is Kumar skipping key meetings in Delhi lately, his unhappiness with the Speaker choice in the state assembly, Centre not agreeing to a caste census and BJP’s growing footprint in Bihar, including its recent big organisational meeting in Patna. However, Kumar did support BJP’s President and Vice-President nominees.
As always, Nitish Kumar is keeping everyone guessing over his next political summersault in Bihar.