BIhar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday said that speculations of a split in his party Janata Dal (United) were “baseless” and lacked any substance, PTI reported. Kumar’s comment came a day after Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Shyam Rajak claimed that 17 MLAs of the JD(U) were in touch with them and ready to join the party.
“Since we do not want to violate anti-defection law, we have told them that we will welcome them only when they come in a group of 28 MLAs,” Rajak told ANI. “Their strength will grow to 28 very soon.”
The anti-defection law does not allow less than two-thirds of MLAs of a party to quit together. However, if the number of legislators in the group exceed that, it is considered as a formal split in the party. A split in the JD(U) will only be formally recognised if at least 28 of its 43 MLAs in the Bihar Assembly quit.
Rajak, who was earlier in JD(U) and held the industries ministry in the previous Cabinet, was expelled from the party in August due to “anti-party activities”. A day later, he joined the RJD. On Wednesday he said that JD(U) MLAs were uncomfortable in the party due to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s domination within the ruling alliance and Kumar’s submission on the face of it, reported PTI.
Earlier this week, BJP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi had said that the alliance with JD(U) in Bihar was “unbreakable”. He downplayed the impact of six JD(U) MLAs switching over to the saffron party in Arunachal Pradesh.
The BJP and the JD(U) won the Bihar Assembly elections in November after contesting together. The coalition – which managed to defy all exit polls, surmount anti-incumbency of 15 years, and fight a resurgent Opposition – won 125 seats in the 243-member State Assembly. The Opposition Grand Alliance clinched 110. Kumar was re-elected as the chief minister for his fourth term on November 16.
The BJP, however, one-upped its ally for the first time in the state by winning 74 seats to emerge as the larger party in the alliance. Kumar, on the other hand, saw his clout diminish as the JD(U)’s numbers came down to 43 from 71 in 2015. This was his party’s worst performance in Bihar since the 2005 Assembly polls.