Nitish Kumar was on Monday sworn in as the Chief Minister of Bihar for the seventh time in two decades, in the presence of top leaders of the NDA, including Union home minister Amit Shah and BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda.
Kumar, who heads the JD(U), was administered the oath of office at Raj Bhavan by Governor Phagu Chauhan, a day after he staked claim for the formation of a new government in the state, armed with unanimous support of all legislators of the NDA despite his party’s tally that plummeted in the elections.
Besides Nitish, 14 leaders from the alliance, including seven from the BJP and four from the JDU, took oath as ministers.
The 69-year-old, who has had a continuous run since November 2005, except for the period in 2014-15 when Jitan Ram Manjhi kept the chair warm for him, is on course to becoming the longest serving Chief Minister of the state, surpassing the record of Shrikrishna Singh, who held the top post since before Independence till his death in 1961.
BJP legislature party leader Tarkishore Prasad (BJP) was also sworn in on Monday. He, along with Renu Devi (BJP), will be the deputy chief ministers in the Nitish Kumar Cabinet. The others who took oath were: Bijendra Prasad Yadav (JDU), Ashok Kumar Choudhary (JDU), Mewa Lal Choudhary (JDU), Sheela Mandal (JDU), Santosh Manjhi (HAM), Mukesh Sahani (VIP), Mangal Pandey (BJP), Amarendra Pratap Singh (BJP), Ramprit Paswan (BJP), Jivesh Mishra(BJP) and Ram Surat Rai (BJP).
The NDA won 125 seats in the 243-member Bihar Assembly, three more than the half-way mark of 122 needed for a majority. The BJP won 74 seats, while the JD(U) succeeded in 43 constituencies. The two other NDA allies, HAM and VIP, won four seats each in the results that were declared on November 10.
Kumar was first sworn in as CM in 2000, for a term that lasted barely a week as he failed to muster a majority and returned as a minister at the Centre in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Five years later, he returned with the JD (U)-BJP alliance winning a majority and upon completion of his tenure returned in 2010 when the coalition won a landslide victory in the assembly polls. He stepped down in May, 2014, owning moral responsibility for the JD (U)s debacle in Lok Sabha polls, only to return in February, 2015 when a rebellious Manjhi was elbowed out.
In November 2015, the assembly polls were fought and won by the Grand Alliance which then comprised JD(U), Lalu Prasad’s RJD and Congress with Kumar back as the Chief Minister. He, however, abruptly exited the alliance in July, 2017, citing irreconcilable differences with the RJD and resigned as Chief Minister only to return in less than 24 hours armed with the support of the BJP.
The opposition Mahagatbandhan on Monday boycotted the oath-taking ceremony of Nitish Kumar, claiming the mandate in the elections was “against the NDA” which has been changed by a “fraud”.
RJD and its four allies – Congress, CPI-ML, CPI and CPI(M) – stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony.
The NDA had made tall promises at the time of campaigning, including creating 19 lakh jobs, which had come in response to RJD CM candidate Tejashwi Yadav’s promise of 10 lakh jobs.
BJP — the single largest party in Bihar this time — had also stirred a controversy when it declared free COVID vaccines for all in Bihar if it returned to power with the JD(U).
In addition, the BJP had said it will appoint three lakh new teachers, make Bihar an IT hub, make one crore women self-reliant and create one lakh jobs in the health sector.
(With inputs from PTI)