Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar is likely to be sworn in as chief minister of Bihar for the third time in a row on November 20 after his three-party alliance won a brute majority in the assembly election.
Grand alliance sources said former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and HD Deve Gowda, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul Gandhi and BJP leader LK Advani would be invited for the grand swearing-in at the historic Gandhi Maidan in the heart of Patna.
Unofficial sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also likely to be invited, but there was no confirmation. Several non-BJP chief ministers are also on the invitation list, including Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had predicted a landslide victory for Kumar, and West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee.
“People are busy with Diwali and Chhath Puja is on November 18. So, the oath of the new government in all likelihood will be administered after Chhath. The CM has taken a decision on this and it could be November 20,” state JD(U) president Basistha Narayan Singh said.
The 64-year-old Kumar takes the top job in one of the country’s most populous states after his alliance between the Janata Dal (United), Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress party stormed to power with 178 of the assembly’s 243 seats.
Kumar, who decimated the Bharatiya Janata Party in a bitterly-fought election, is widely credited with turning around a state once regarded as one of the country’s most lawless regions.
Sources said the chief minister was likely to take the oath along with a 36-member cabinet with proportional representation from all three parties in the alliance — 16 from the RJD, 14 or 15 from the JD (U) and five from the Congress.
The Congress, which has 27 members, is also likely to join the government this time. State Congress president Ashok Choudhary said the decision would be taken after discussions with the party leadership.
“Just as seat-sharing happened smoothly, this will also happen as smoothly,” said a senior JD-U leader, adding the decision would be taken only after consultation between the two top leaders – Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad.
It is yet to be decided which constituent party would get the speaker’s post and if Lalu Prasad’s son, Tejaswi, would be made deputy chief minister.
Kumar is an engineering graduate whose clean image did the magic for the grand alliance as Kumar is seen as a man committed to development. Several of his schemes, particularly those related to empowerment of women and girls, were popular and received wide appreciation.
The grand alliance’s victory is attributed by many to the rejection of communal politics, driven mostly by a recent debate over whether India was becoming intolerant under the BJP-led government.
This will be the fifth time Kumar takes over as chief minister. His first stint was in 2000 when he headed a government for only seven days. He rode to power in November 2005 and again in 2010. In February 2015, he took oath for the fourth time after Jitan Ram Manjhi was removed from the chair.