Bihar polls: Nitish Kumar says haven't made claim for CM post yet, NDA allies will make final decision tomorrow
Addressing a press conference after meeting newly-elected JD(U) MLAs at the party headquarters in Patna, Nitish added that a decision on the date of the swearing-in ceremony will also be taken in the NDA meeting on Friday
JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar, who is likely to helm the Bihar government for the fourth consecutive time after the NDA's victory in the Assembly polls, on Thursday said that the decision on who will occupy the chief minister's office will be decided at a meeting of the alliance partners on Friday.
While top BJP leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi have endorsed Nitish as the NDA's chief ministerial choice, Nitish said that he hasn't made a claim to the chief minister's chair.
Addressing a press conference after meeting newly-elected JD(U) MLAs at the party headquarters in Patna, Nitish added that a decision on the date of the swearing-in ceremony will also be taken in the NDA meeting on Friday. "It is not decided yet when the oath ceremony will take place, whether after Diwali or Chhath. We are analysing the results of this election," he said.
The JD(U) emerged as the third party in the recently concluded Assembly polls, with the main Opposition party, RJD, emerging as the single-largest party. Due to the party's poor show in the election, Nitish is "unwilling" to continue as the chief minister for a fourth term, The Indian Express reported.
However, the report said that senior BJP leaders have tried to convince him of continuing in the office, with the "assurance that he has 'full independence as before' in running the government"
The report also quoted sources as saying that the JD(U) chief was "very upset" about the Chirag Paswan-led LJP not supporting it in the 2020 Assembly polls. A BJP leader said, "He was deeply disturbed and very upset that Chirag had spoiled JD(U)’s chances in at least 25-30 seats. We persuaded him to remain the chief minister even though BJP is now a senior partner in the alliance."
When asked about the LJP in the press conference on Thursday, Nitish said, "It's for the BJP to decide whether or not LJP should be retained in NDA."
Earlier, speculation was rife that Nitish will be sworn in as the chief minister on Monday. However, PTI also quoted an aide as saying that the date was not finalised. Raj Bhavan sources said they have not received any communication about when the swearing-in ceremony will take place, the report said.
Before he is sworn-in as the chief minister again, Nitish Kumar has to tender his resignation to the governor. The newly elected MLAs of the NDA are yet to meet formally and elect Kumar as their leader.
Tejashwi Yadav says NDA won by 'deceit', demands recount of postal ballots
Meanwhile, on the Opposition front, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who missed the chief minister's chair by a few thousand votes, alleged wrongdoing in the vote counting process. He was also elected the leader of the Grand Alliance legislature party on Thursday.
Hitting out at the NDA, Tejashwi claimed that the BJP-JD(U) alliance won the Assembly elections through "deceit".
Addressing a press conference, Yadav mocked Nitish for JD(U)'s performance, and wondered whether the latter would "heed his conscience and give up his attachment to the (chief minister's) chair".
He was referring to Kumar resigning and snapping ties with the Grand Alliance before returning to the NDA fold in 2017 after Tejashwi's name had cropped up in a money laundering case, PTI reported.
Nitish had then said he was stepping down after "heeding his conscience".
Tejashwi also claimed the people's mandate in the 2020 election was for a change in government but "it was manipulated". "It was undoubtedly a mandate for change. The NDA won by dhan, bal and chhal (money, muscle power and deceit)," he alleged.
Asked whether the Mahagathbandhan would try to muster numbers to form its own government, he said, "We will go to the people who gave the mandate. If they express such a wish we will act accordingly."
Quoting election data, he claimed the NDA got only 12,270 votes more than the Mahagathbandhan. "How can it convert into their victory in 15 more seats than us? We believe that had the counting of votes been fair, we would have returned with a tally of more than 130 seats," said Yadav, whose coalition has won 110 seats, 12 less than the magic figure of 122. The NDA clinched 125 seats.
He said his alliance will write to the Election Commission and point out the "discrepancies".
"In so many constituencies, postal ballots were counted in the end and not at the beginning of counting which is the norm. Moreover, there were seats where as many as 900 postal ballots were invalidated," the RJD leader alleged.
"We suspect this was done to offset the support we had received from a large number of servicemen who were moved by our commitment to one rank, one pension scheme. We demand recounting of postal ballots in all such constituencies and the process be videographed," Yadav asserted.
The 31-year-old former deputy chief minister alleged that errant polling officials had acted like a "prakoshth" (cell) of the BJP, and replied in the affirmative when asked if legal remedy could be explored if the EC did not satisfactorily address the concerns.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav also alleged "irregularities" in the election process. Responding to these claims, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora said that while the Election Commission does not react to comments made by political parties, the ultimate decision lies with people.
He also said the Bihar chief electoral officer has already responded to everything. The EC had to hold four press conferences on counting day on 10 November to respond to various aspects of the process, Arora pointed out.
"We do not respond to comments made by political entities. It is their decision, what they said, why they said. The ultimate decision lies with people," he told reporters on Thursday.
Responding to a query on the "slow pace of counting", Arora said keeping in mind the distancing norms in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of voters per polling station was restricted to 1,000 instead of the usual 1,500. This had resulted in an increase of 33,000 polling stations. This time, Bihar had over one lakh polling stations. More poling stations meant the use of 63 percent additional electronic voting machines (EVMs).
The number of counting tables per hall was also halved to seven instead of 14 and the number of counting locations also increased from 38 to 55.
Grand Alliance lost because of Congress' poor performance, says party leader
Senior Congress leader Tariq Anwar on Thursday came out with the candid admission that his party, on account of its dismal performance in the Bihar Assembly elections, had emerged as the weak link which prevented the Mahagathbandhan from forming its government in the state.
Anwar, an AICC general secretary, came out with a flurry of tweets calling for "urgent and deep introspection" over the debacle of the party, the second largest constituent of the Opposition coalition, which contested as many as 70 seats but returned with a tally of just 19.
"We must accept the truth. Because of the poor performance of the Congress, Bihar has been deprived of a Mahagathbandhan government. The Congress must introspect as to where it faltered. Also, the entry of AIMIM in Bihar is not a good sign," Anwar tweeted.
Talking to PTI, Anwar, who had been a multiple term MP from Katihar in the state, added, "The Congress is opposed to communalism in all forms. The AIMIM seeks to mobilize support of Muslims in much the same way as the BJP does in case of Hindus. Both would feed on each other."
"This is not good for the society at large. The AIMIM has made inroads in the densely populated Kosi Seemanchal region which has a high concentration of Muslims, and always been known for social harmony," he added.
Anwar, who was a member of the campaign committee set up by the Congress for the Assembly polls, also took a dig at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose JD(U) has witnessed a sharp decline in its tally compared to what it was five years ago, and now has far fewer seats than the BJP.
HAM chief elected leader of its legislature party
Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi was on Thursday elected the leader of its four-member legislature party. All the four newly elected MLAs met at Manjhi's residence where they elected the former chief minister the leader of the legislature group.
They were all felicitated by party leaders and workers present there following the party's best-ever performance in an Assembly election. Manjhi was the lone HAM MLA in the outgoing Assembly.
With inputs from agencies
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