, the Bihar chief minister, broke away from ally BJP in his state a few
weeks ago. His party, the Janata Dal (United), allied with foe-turned-friend-turned-foe-turned-friend
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Kumar remained in-charge of one of India’s most populous
and most impoverished states. But his party, which sought a footprint in India’s
north-eastern states is now taking a beating from the BJP. Five out of six
JD(U) MLAs in Manipur are said to have switched to the saffron camp.

The shift
took Kumar by surprise. The 71-year-old man who rose from the ranks of Bihar’s
socialist movement is currently serving his sixth term as Bihar’s chief
minister. Political observers say Kumar has a penchant of knowing which way the
political wind blows. So, when his long-term ally, but recently turned foe
Sushil Modi taunted him on social media, saying, “After Arunachal, Manipur is
also JDU free. Very soon Laluji (Lalu Prasad Yadav, whose son Tejashwi Yadav
leads RJD) will make Bihar also JDU free,” Kumar wasn’t going to take things
lying down.

Also Read | Nitish to visit Delhi from Sep 5, likely to meet Opposition leaders

Later, Kumar
told news agency ANI that when JDU was parting ways with the BJP-led National
Democratic Alliance (NDA), all six Manipur MLAs met the party leadership and
assured it that they will stay with JDU. “We need to think about what’s going
on. They’re breaking away the MLAs from the parties, is it constitutional? ….
The Opposition will unify for the 2024 elections,” Kumar said.

Kumar’s top aide, Rajiv Ranjan Singh, popular in Bihar as Lalan Singh, told
reporters that the Centre’s actions in Opposition-ruled states like
Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Jharkhand show the BJP’s fear and
desperation regarding 2024.

“What they
did in Maharashtra and MP, tried to do in Delhi, and are doing in Jharkhand now
will have repercussions around the country,” said Singh, referring to central
agency action in some of these states which Opposition parties have described
as political vendetta. He further said what happened in Manipur was due to
money power.

Also Read | ‘Is it constitutional?’ Nitish on JD(U)’s Manipur setback

Nitish Kumar
has often been seen as the administrator par excellence who can help stop the
Narendra Modi juggernaut. Talks of him leading the Opposition against BJP had
surfaced even before the 2019 general elections. But Kumar was glued to his
state interests and decided to stay with the BJP camp. Now, however, things
have changed.

Kumar met Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) together addressed
a press conference. There, reporters continued to bug the duo with one
question: Who will be the Oppositions prime ministerial candidate in the 2024
polls? With many directly asking if it would be Nitish Kumar. At the time,
Kumar did not seem interested in taking the question.

An awkward
interaction ensued where the Telangana CM kept telling the Bihar chief minister
“Aap baithiye na,” (Please sit) and the Bihar CM saying: “Chaliye na.” While
many took the awkward-yet-funny communication symbolic of the larger dissonance
in the Opposition camp, the BJP saw in this a way to explore the dissonance.

Malviya, BJP’s social media chief shared the video of the conversation on
Twitter and wrote: “Did KCR travel to Patna to get insulted like this? Nitish
Kumar didn’t even accord him the basic courtesy of completing his point in a
press interaction. Nitish was dismissive of KCR’s pleas to let him finish. But
then that is Nitish Kumar. Self-conceited. KCR asked for it…”

parties, including the Congress, have been looking for various permutations and
combinations to forge a unity to take on the BJP in the 2024 polls. The
Congress, which has its presidential elections scheduled next month, will be
undertaking a ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ from Kashmir to Kanyakumari staring September
7. Several senior Congress leaders, led by Rahul Gandhi, will take part in the
yatra which will cover a distance of 3,500 kilometres and 150 days.