New Delhi: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar snapped Tuesday ties with the BJP. In the process Nitish Kumar has once again been pitched as a prime ministerial candidate for the 2024 elections by some, but a majority of the Opposition still view the JD(U) leader with suspicion citing his numerous ‘U-turns’.
A senior Opposition leader also pointed out that Kumar is one among the several leaders with prime ministerial ambitions. Among the others are West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao, besides Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
“If you assess the personalities in the country, Nitish Kumar is eligible to become prime minister. We are not making any claims today, but he has all the qualities of a prime minister,” Upendra Kushwaha, president of the Janata Dal(U) National Parliamentary Board said in Patna.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Sharad Yadav also said that Kumar could be a prime ministerial candidate for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
However, Nitish refused to respond to questions about him being the prime ministerial face in the next Lok Sabha polls as he stepped out of the Raj Bhawan in Patna after resigning as NDA’s chief minister.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav had derisively named Nitish as ‘paltu ram’, a person who took repeated ‘U-turns’, after he walked out of the RJD-JD(U)-Congress grand alliance in 2017 and joined hands with the BJP.
In October 2019, Yadav had described Nitish as a ‘chameleon-like’ character. He had ruled out any possibility in the future of him returning to the secular alliance fold. However, times have now changed.
Nitish first became chief minister in 2005 on the back of a campaign against ‘jungle raj’ of Lalu Prasad’s RJD in Bihar. He dumped the BJP in 2013 after Narendra Modi was projected as the prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Nitish then forged a grand alliance with RJD and Congress and returned as chief minister in 2015. He walked out of the grand alliance in 2017, accusing the RJD of corruption and choking governance in Bihar.
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said Nitish’s political career has been spotless as far as allegations of corruption are concerned. However, one thing that goes against him is the number of times he has changed political allies. “Nitish has been an ally who keeps changing his mind often. This is one thing that goes against him, the dependability factor,” said Chaturvedi, a Rajya Sabha member.
Chaturvedi pointed out that Uddhav Thackeray too had stood against the BJP firmly and run a clean administration during his tenure as chief minister, particularly in the time of Covid-19 pandemic. “There are worthy opposition leaders and it has to be seen in 2024 how things will shape up,” Chaturvedi said.
Left and Trinamool Congress leaders welcomed the development in Bihar but refused to comment on Nitish’s prime ministerial chances.
NCP leader Majeed Memon said Nitish could be one of the few people, including Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee, who could be seen as prime ministerial challengers in 2024.
“There are some regional satraps. Kumar is also among them. He certainly is a contender. But ultimately, it will be a unanimous decision on who will be the challenger to the BJP,” Memon, a former Rajya Sabha member, said.
Former JD(U) leader RCP Singh, once a close aide of Nitish, said the Bihar chief minister will never become the prime minister, even if he takes seven births.
BJP Rajya Sabha member Vivek Thakur termed Nitish walking out of NDA as ‘good riddance’. “There is no limit to Nitish’s ambition. He works neither for Bihar nor his party, but only to further his ambition. He has nursed prime ministerial ambitions. However, there is no vacancy for prime minister and India has also got a very good president and vice-president,” Thakur said.