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Updated January 20th, 2024 at 17:39 IST

Lalan Singh to join RJD? Buzz over rift in JDU picks up amid Nitish's comeback as party chief rumors

Reportedly, Lalan Singh, along with a senior minister, aiming to align with the RJD

Reported by: Prakash Singh
Lalan Singh Nitish Kumar
Lalan Singh to join BJP? Buzz over rift in JDU picks up amid Nitish's comeback as party chief rumours | Image:PTI
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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is poised to assume the role of JDU National President on December 29, sidelining the incumbent President and Lok Sabha MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh, known as Lalan Singh. This shift in leadership follows a rift between Lalan Singh and Nitish Kumar which was triggered by recent developments within the INDI alliance's strategy for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The disagreement stemmed from the INDI alliance's decision not to nominate Nitish Kumar as the convener or the Prime Ministerial face for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2024. Lalan Singh, who played a pivotal role in steering the break between the BJP-JDU alliance and forming ties with Lalu Yadav's RJD in August 2022, found himself at odds with Nitish Kumar due to this decision. 

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The formation of the Mahagathbandhan government in Bihar in 2022 was contingent upon Nitish Kumar transitioning to central politics, paving the way for Tejashwi Yadav to assume the Chief Minister's role. However, sources within the JDU revealed that the agreement appeared to falter in its execution, particularly as Lalu Yadav purportedly did not endorse Nitish Kumar's candidacy for the Prime Ministerial face during the INDI bloc meeting. This upcoming leadership transition within the JDU underscores a significant rift within the alliance and the complex interplay of political dynamics shaping Bihar's landscape ahead of the crucial 2024 elections.

Is Nitish unhappy with Lalan Singh's increasing rapport with Lalu and his son Tejashwi?

According to insider accounts within the JDU, Nitish Kumar's discomfort has surged due to Lalan Singh's increasing rapport with Lalu Yadav and his son Tejashwi Yadav. This burgeoning alliance between Lalan Singh and the Yadavs has reportedly sparked unease within Nitish Kumar's camp.

Originally slated as a routine affair, the JDU National Executive Meeting scheduled for December 29 encountered a standoff between Nitish and Lalan. This paved the way for the convening of the National Council meeting, the apex body of the JDU. In this critical assembly, Lalan Singh is expected to tender his resignation, facilitating Nitish Kumar's second tenure as the President of the JDU.

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Sources close to JDU leadership suggested that Nitish Kumar received suggestions from his close confidants, advocating for his assumption of leadership within the party. This strategic move aims to preempt internal discord brewing from factionalism within the party ranks and circumvent potential unrest that could emerge should a new leader take the helm after Lalan Singh's departure.

While speaking to Republic on phone Lalan Singh said, “I have not offered my resignation. I am overseeing arrangements for the meeting in Delhi.”

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Contradictory reports have emerged regarding Lalan Singh's purported resignation from his role within the JDU, with top party leaders officially refuting such claims. Bihar's Finance Minister, Vijay Chowdhary affirmed, “Where is the question of Lalan Singh resigning? He is the president of the party.” Despite the official stance, several high-ranking leaders, speaking anonymously, indicate a likelihood of Lalan Singh being replaced by Nitish Kumar in his role.

Lalan Singh's association with Nitish Kumar spans over 40 years, yet this isn't the first instance of strained relations between the two. In 2010, preceding the assembly elections, Lalan Singh had distanced himself from Nitish Kumar. At the time, he had remarked, "Nitish has teeth in his stomach. He can bite anyone. I know him well." The JDU took a stance against Lalan Singh back then and appealed for his disqualification as a Lok Sabha member. However, in 2013, ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Lalan Singh reconciled with Nitish Kumar.

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The Bihar BJP is closely monitoring the unfolding developments within the JDU, its longtime ally of 17 years. BJP leader Sushil Modi remarked, "I had long predicted Lalan Singh's ouster as JDU president. His close association with Lalu Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav has irked Nitish." 

While Lalan Singh appears aligned with the Lalu family presently, he was among the initial petitioners in the fodder scam case against Lalu. Ironically, Lalan now assumes a mentoring role for Tejashwi Yadav.

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Is Nitish gearing himself for a political realignment?

The JDU faces a critical juncture, compounded by Nitish Kumar's ailing health, without a clear succession plan. Amid rumours of Congress sidelining Nitish at Mamata Banerjee's behest, many loyalists feel the JDU's natural alliance lies with the BJP. Reportedly, Lalan, along with a senior minister, is aiming to align with the RJD. Presently, the JDU holds 45 seats in the Vidhan Sabha out of 243, while the RJD has 80, BJP 79, and Congress 19.

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The imminent change in JDU leadership, with Lalan Singh's resignation, echoes a historical pattern of leadership transitions within the party, notably involving Nitish Kumar's pivotal role. Reflecting on past instances, in 2005, Nitish Kumar orchestrated the removal of George Fernandes, subsequently appointing Sharad Yadav as the JDU president. Later, Sharad Yadav faced a similar fate, clearing the path for Nitish to assume the presidency himself. 

Following the 2020 assembly elections, RCP Singh assumed the JDU presidency, only to be replaced by Lalan Singh when RCP secured a ministerial position in Narendra Modi's cabinet. Lalan Singh's rift with the BJP stemmed from a perceived denial of a cabinet berth in the PM Modi-led government. 

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The timing of Lalan Singh's resignation, just ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, hints at significant deliberations within Nitish Kumar's camp. The recent setback within the INDI alliance appears to be prompting Nitish to gear up for a potential political realignment. 

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Published December 28th, 2023 at 00:03 IST

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