Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is yet to prove his majority after reuniting, once again, with the BJP, or even constitute his full cabinet. However, his two-day visit to Delhi from Wednesday will be his “thanksgiving” in advance.
Nitish Kumar plans to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top leaders in an atmosphere of conviviality facilitated by the BJP’s new strategy for the mercurial Bihar Chief Minister.
This time, sources say, the BJP’s top leadership immediately conceded Nitish Kumar’s wish to stick to the 2020 formula of divvying up portfolios, which gives him the freedom to retain the all-important ministries of home and personnel, which deal with transfers and postings of IPS and IAS officers.
The BJP brass wanted to reassure Nitish Kumar before he made his latest switch – one that has become fodder for opposition swipes and social media memes.
But the way the BJP also agreed to swap the Finance portfolio with Education – which Nitish Kumar handed to RJD in 2022 – and give up Rural Roads, which concerns all constituencies and all MLAs, sends a strong signal – though the BJP enjoys pole position, it doesn’t want to haggle over the terms of the reunion.
Former Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav held the rural roads ministry and Public Works Department in the outgoing coalition, which crashed over a range of reasons including a war over credit for government schemes.
BJP leaders in Bihar say the latest (re)alliance was decided by the Delhi leadership, which wants to send a message that it won’t drive a hard bargain, with its eye on the prize – a repeat of the 2019 election score in Bihar, which would have been impossible without pulling Nitish Kumar away from the RJD.