'I Will Be With PM Modi Always': Nitish Kumar Takes A Jibe At INDIA Bloc

New Delhi:

Nitish Kumar on Friday completed the formality of endorsing Narendra Modi for Prime Minister – for a third term – at a meeting of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s newly-elected MPs.

The Bihar Chief Minister – who underlined his paltu Kumar’ sobriquet in January when he pivoted from the INDIA opposition bloc he helped create to the BJP’s side – also took a jibe at his former allies, stating the group “has not done any work for the country”. The JDU boss also declared “I will be with PM at all times” – a response to critics expecting a sixth political U-turn in a decade.

Nitish Kumar’s claim of support for Mr Modi was also an answer to speculation the INDIA bloc – which defied exit polls to slash the BJP’s advantage and win 232 seats – had reached out to him.

The JDU leader emerged as one of two kingmakers after the Lok Sabha election – 12 MPs from his JDU and 16 from Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP – will be key for Mr Modi’s party to form and run the government after it failed to cross the majority mark of 272 on its own; the BJP has only 240 seats.

The rest of the NDA has only 25 seats – not enough to carry the BJP past the finishing line.

Buzz of a sensational Nitish Kumar – INDIA bloc reunion surfaced Tuesday evening after it became clear the BJP would not win 272 seats on its own. Senior INDIA leaders, including ex-Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, suggested an olive branch might be extended to Nitish Kumar.

There were similar rumours about Chandrababu Naidu as the two made their way to Delhi for the NDA parliamentary meeting. Mr Naidu made his position clear, but Nitish Kumar remained coy.

READ | As BJP Weighs Nitish’s Terms, A Lesson From INDIA Bloc Exit

On Thursday sources close to Nitish Kumar ruled out this possibility, but left a sting in the tail; with both sides locked in talks over ministerial berth allocation, the BJP brass was reportedly told to remember Nitish Kumar had walked out of the INDIA bloc over delays in naming him as its Convenor.

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Recalling a January meeting of the INDIA group – when Nitish was still a member – and the events that followed, sources said an agreement to that effect had been reached. However, it was allowed to be deferred after Rahul Gandhi spoke up; the Wayanad (and now) Raebareli MP asked for the deferral since Trinamool boss Mamata Banerjee was absent from that meeting.

NDTV Explains | Inside Story Of Nitish’s Stunning U-Turn-Again – Just Before Poll

The intervention was not well-received by the JDU; Nitish Kumar and two of his closest aides, Rajeev Ranjan alias Lallan Singh, and Sanjay Jha, who immediately switched off their video conference lines.

Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister, Vijay Kumar Sinha, stressed this week his boss will (now) remain part of the NDA. Speaking to news agency ANI, he said Nitish “was, is, and will remain part of the NDA“. 

Nitish Kumar has maintained radio silence on this or any related topic, even after the JDU boss and his former ally, the RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, set tongues wagging when photographed on the same Patna-Delhi flight, en route to NDA and INDIA meetings to review poll results and plot next moves.

READ | NDA Meets To Decide On Cabinet, Nitish, C Naidu Seek Key Posts

Sources, though, have confirmed the JDU has informed the BJP of what it expects – two cabinet and a junior Union Minister berth, as well as a common minimum programme – in return for support. The Railways Minister post – held previously by Nitish Kumar – is among those the party has its eye on.

Modi’s Attack On Congress

Earlier today Mr Modi, after being nominated as the NDA’s leader and the Prime Minister-designate, took a series of swipes at the opposition, specifically the Congress, which he mocked for having failed to cross the 100-seat mark in a Lok Sabha election in each of the past three polls.

READ | “Congress Won’t Cross 100 Mark In 10 Years”: PM’s All-Out Attack

Mr Modi will be sworn in as Prime Minister at 6 pm on Sunday.

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