Nitish Kumar, still smarting from the Bihar election that demoted him as junior partner to BJP, has been served fresh humiliation by his long-time ally in a state where his party had recently registered its presence.
Six of seven legislators of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JDU) in Arunachal Pradesh have defected to the BJP. The JDU now has just one MLA in the 60-member Arunachal assembly. Along with an MLA of the People’s Party of Arunachal, the BJP now has 48 members.
The JDU MLAs who quit are Hayeng Mangfi, Jikke Tako, Dongru Siongju, Talem Taboh, Kanggong Taku and Dorjee Wangdi Kharma. Three of them had been suspended and served notices last month for anti-party activity after they chose a legislative party leader allegedly without consulting the state JDU chief.
The BJP’s state unit chief Biyuram Wahge said the development proved people’s faith and trust in the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Pema Khandu.
Those close to Nitish Kumar are extremely upset at what is being seen as the BJP’s betrayal and this is set to come up during the two-day National Council meeting of the Janata Dal United this weekend. Though the JDU is in the opposition in Arunachal, it supports the BJP-led government.
The JDU became a recognised state party in Arunachal Pradesh just last year, after winning seven seats in the north eastern state and placing second after the BJP, which was the largest party with 41 seats.
“The tally entitles us to the status of the main opposition party. But we will offer full support to the BJP government in that state. Even if we get the opposition party status, we will be a friendly opposition,” JDU leader KC Tyagi had been quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
The strength of opposition has now gone down to 12 – four each from Congress and National People’s Party, one from the JDU and three Independents.
This is the second jolt to Nitish Kumar after he retained the job of Bihar Chief Minister in recent polls but was made deeply aware of his diminished status in the BJP-led coalition.
In the October-November election, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s majority in the 243-member assembly was powered by the BJP’s 74 seats. The JDU finished at number 3 – after Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD and BJP — with its tally dropping to 43 from 71 in 2015.
Nitish Kumar still became Chief Minister but the BJP showed who’s boss by replacing his long-time second-in-command Sushil Modi with two new Deputy Chief Ministers.