A month after severing ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is in Delhi meeting Opposition leaders.
He had a meeting with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday (September 5), and is expected to meet other Opposition leaders like Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, NCP's Sharad Pawar, CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav among others on Tuesday (September 6).
The meeting between Gandhi and Kumar lasted almost an hour. This was the first meeting between Gandhi and Kumar since the Bihar CM walked out of the NDA in Bihar. He also met Janata Dal (Secular) chief HD Kumaraswamy.
But why is he meeting with Opposition leaders now?
Opposition unity: During his meeting with Gandhi, Kumar reportedly discussed the current political situation in the country and ways to ensure Opposition unity. And now his meeting with other Opposition party leaders today will ensure that he is in Delhi to unite all parties against the BJP before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Before leaving for Delhi, Kumar had met RJD President and former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav in Patna in a bid to forge Opposition unity.
Kumar also received support from Telangana CM KCR when the latter flew down to Patna last week and gave the call for a "BJP-mukt Bharat".
PM ambitions? After he broke ties with the BJP, the JD(U) leader is being talked about in political circles as a key face to take on PM Narendra Modi in the 2024 General Elections. He however has never said that he has ambitions to become the PM.
Nitish Kumar may be a strong candidate considering his long experience as Bihar CM, but many in the Opposition will still be wary of his U-turns.
Not a fan of the third front: Kumar, who is trying his best to unite the Opposition parties, is not a big fan of the 'third front' and wants Congress to be included in the talks.
At its two-day conclave, the JD(U) said it was not in favour of a "non-Congress, non-BJP alternative" which was suggested by KCR, reported PTI.
Why Opposition leaders will listen to him: In Bihar, Kumar is heading a seven-party coalition after breaking the alliance with the BJP. This coalition includes the Congress and the Left. Kumar's decision to take Congress along makes sense because the Grand-Old party, no matter how depleted it is at the moment, is still the biggest political party in the country after the BJP.
In his pro-Congress stance, Kumar is likely to receive ample support from Lalu Prasad who is known to share good personal equations with Sonia Gandhi, reported PTI.
His challenge to BJP: After swearing-in as the Bihar CM for the 8th time, Kumar had said that the Modi-led NDA government at the Centre needs to "worry" about its prospects in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. "They should remember 2014 (when BJP stormed to power at the centre) is past. They need to worry ('chinta karni chahiye') about 2024," he had said.
At the JD(U) conclave, Kumar said the saffron party can be sent packing with just 50 seats in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections by a united Opposition, reported India Today. "If all (Opposition) parties fight together, the BJP will be bundled out for about 50 seats. I am devoting myself to that drive (abhiyan)", he said.
Why he decided to break alliance with BJP: While there had been a lot of disagreements between the parties over issues like caste census, Agnipath scheme for armed forces and population control, the continuation of RCP Singh as a central Cabinet minister might have played a big role in Kumar leaving the alliance.
Singh was made a Cabinet minister at the Centre without Kumar's explicit agreement and when his Rajya Sabha term ended, the JD(U) refused to give him another term as an MP.