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Friends to Foes: Nitish Challenges Modi in 2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Minutes after taking oath as Bihar CM, Nitish Kumar asks whether Modi will win in 2024.
Nitish Kumar

Nitish Kumar and Tejasvi Yadav taking oath as Bihar Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister, respectively. | Image Courtesy: Twitter/@mkstalin

Patna: A day after ending the alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar took oath as Bihar’s chief minister (CM) for the eight time and challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi with an eye on the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections.

Kumar, who is the head of a new seven-party Grand Alliance, or the second Mahagathbandhan, denied that he is in the race for the top post but challenged Modi. “No, I am not a contender for any such post (prime minister). The question to ask is if the person who came to power in 2014 will win in 2024?” he told reporters in the state capital.

Despite his denial, speculation about Kumar becoming the Opposition’s face against Modi in the General Elections will not die soon. With Bihar elections due in 2025, he is likely to be CM in 2024. Besides, his deputy Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) Tejashwi Yadav has said that Kumar is the “most experienced chief minister in India right now”.

Kumar’s statement is being widely seen in Bihar as his move to shift from state politics to national politics and to emerge as the face of a united opposition against Modi.

Kumar further said that the BJP was conspiring to damage and weaken his party despite being a part of the ruling coalition.

Yadav, who was sworn in as the deputy CM during a simple ceremony at the Raj Bhawan, said, “We are committed to fulfil the promises made to people. I will ensure to provide jobs to youths.”

After taking oaths, Kumar and Yadav hugged each other with smiling faces with the Raj Bhawan echoing with chants of “Zindabad”. He also touched Kumar’s feet as a mark of respect.

All the 164 MLAs—JD(U) 45 plus 1 Independent, RJD 79, Congress 19, CPI(ML) 12, CPI(M) 2, CPI 2 and HAM 4—and hundreds of leaders and workers of the new alliance were present at the ceremony. Prominent among them were RJD leader and former CM Rabri Devi and Yadav’s wife Rajshree. Opposition BJP’s 77 MLAs and its party leaders didn’t attend the swearing-in ceremony.

According to JD(U) and Mahagathbandhan sources, a Cabinet was scheduled to be formed either Wednesday evening or Thursday.

Hours ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, BJP leaders staged a protest in front of the party headquarters here. Shocked by the political development on Tuesday, BJP leaders and workers expressed anger and unhappiness by shouting slogans against Kumar like “Nitish Kumae haye” and “Nitish Kumar murdabad”.

Earlier, BJP top leaders, including Union ministers Giriraj Singh, Ashwani Kumar Choubey, Nityanand Rai, former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Radha Mohan Singh, former Bihar deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and state BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal, accused Kumar of “betrayal”, “backstabbing” and “cheating” the people’s mandate.

Since 2005, Kumar has been the CM except for nine months when he installed Jitan Ram Manjhi as CM following his party’s humiliating defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections.

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