India: Prime Minister Uses Bihar Scandal to Build Alliance
2 MINS READJul 27, 2017 | 20:40 GMT
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to build his party's strength, this time boosting it in Bihar, the country's third most populous state. In a dramatic turn of events, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) party stepped down on July 26 to safeguard his anti-corruption image as a corruption investigation entangled his deputy chief minister, Tejashwi Yadav. Yet hours after Kumar stepped down, Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) offered its 53 seats in the Bihar state assembly in support of Kumar's 71 seats, giving the newly formed alliance the slim majority needed to form a government. As a result, Kumar was sworn in again as chief minister on July 27, with BJP state leader Sushil Kumar Modi (no relation to the prime minister) taking office as deputy chief minister.
Kumar's party had been allied with Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal party, and along with the Indian National Congress party, the three had formed a "grand alliance" that delivered a stunning defeat to the BJP in Bihar's 2015 state elections. Thus Kumar's defection means Modi has punctured the alliance, thereby brightening his re-election prospects for 2019 as his party broadens its reach through India's politically critical Hindi heartland. Modi has also co-opted the chief minister, widely viewed as one of the few politicians in India capable of matching Modi's populist appeal.