Nitish Kumar was today sworn as the Chief Minister of Bihar for the sixth time, a day after he resigned, dumped coalition partner Lalu Prasad's RJD and joined hands with the opposition BJP to reclaim his post in fast-paced manoeuvres that redrew the political landscape of the state. Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi administered 66-year-old Kumar the oath of office and secrecy at the Rajendra Mandapam at the Raj Bhawan here. Senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi was also sworn in.
The Governor has asked Kumar to prove majority on the floor of the House within two days, after the JD(U) walked out of the barely two-year-old alliance with the RJD and Congress. Union Health minister J P Nadda and BJP leader Anil Jain were present at the brief ceremony where only Kumar and Sushil Modi were sworn in.
Kumar quit the post last night after a fall out with the alliance partner RJD over corruption charges against Lalu Yadav and some of his family members, including son Tejashwi, who was the deputy CM in the previous dispensation. "Whatever decision we have taken will be in the interest of Bihar and of its people. It will ensure development and justice. It will also ensure progress. This is a collective decision. I ensure that our commitment is towards the people of Bihar," Kumar told reporters after the swearing-in.
With JD(U) returning to the NDA fold, the changed political equations are likely to impact the 2019 general elections. While the BJP is buoyed by the development, there is disquiet in the Opposition camp as it has jolted the efforts to forge a unity to take on the saffron juggernaut.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Kumar and said he looked forward to working together for Bihar's prosperity.
Nobody from the RJD or the Congress attended the swearing-in ceremony protesting over the "denial of chance" to the RJD, the single-largest party in the state assembly, to form government.
In Delhi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi lashed out at Kumar accusing him of acting for "selfish political motives". "Bihar had given an anti-communal mandate but Nitish Kumar has gone back to them (the BJP) for his personal political gains," he said.
Development to be priority for new govt: SK Modi
After taking oath, Sushil Modi said the development process will be back on track in the state with return of the NDA. "The JD(U)-BJP alliance had earlier taken Bihar to new heights. At that point of time, the people of the state used to take pride in saying 'I am a Bihari'. But in the last 20 months something went wrong. But now the JD(U)-BJP alliance will again take Bihar to newer heights."
On RJD's claims that it has the numbers, JD(U) national spokesperson KC Tyagi said, "They should stop making tall claims and if they really have the numbers, let them prove it in the floor test. We have our numbers and we will prove it."
The NDA alliance had submitted a list of 132 MLAs yesterday to the Governor. These include 71 of JD(U), BJP 53, RLSP 2, LJP 2, HAM 1 and three Independents. In the 243-member Bihar Assembly, the RJD has 81 MLAs, the Congress 27 and the CPI-ML 03.
Tyagi said the decision of his party to form the Grand Alliance government in Bihar was "a mistake" and ruled out any possibility of a patch-up with the RJD. "It was a mistake to forge an alliance with RJD. We had information that to save themselves from CBI cases, they were in touch with the union ministers in Delhi and were planning to topple the Nitish Kumar government," Tyagi said.
"We regret our decision to run the government with such a person (Lalu Prasad) for 20 months. We blame ourselves for committing a mistake of taking their MLA count from 22 to 80," he added.
Manjhi welcomes Nitish to NDA fold
Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi welcomed Kumar's decision to join the NDA. "I congratulate Nitish Kumarji for his decision to join the NDA. If someone commits a mistake and has the guts to accept and rectify it, we should also welcome it and support that person," Manjhi said.
Kumar had unexpectedly resigned yesterday, but hours later joined hands with the BJP to reclaim the government in a stunning political manoeuvre that relegated his alliance partner RJD to the opposition. The ostensible reason for Kumar to quit was his falling out with Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, the son of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad. Yadav is facing corruption charges but had refused to step down despite Kumar's exhortations.
Late last night, Kumar accompanied by Sushil Modi and other NDA leaders had met the Governor to stake claim to form a new coalition ministry in the state after he broke away from Grand Alliance ministry of JD(U), RJD and Congress. Tejashwi Yadav had led a protest march to the Raj Bhawan post-midnight and had met the Governor. He had later told reporters that the swearing-in of NDA government was a "pre-planned conspiracy."