New Delhi: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was elected Janata Dal (United) president on Friday at the meeting of the party’s national executive which lauded his role in bringing together opposition parties and spearheading the demand for caste census.
Party’s chief spokesperson K C Tyagi said Kumar has agreed to take over the mantle from Lalan Singh.
Singh stepped down at the closed-door meeting and proposed Kumar’s name, saying his leadership will be needed at this crucial juncture in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls while he will be busy fighting his own election. He currently represents Munger constituency in Lok Sabha.
The national council meeting of the party, scheduled to be held later in the day, will ratify decisions, including on his presidency, taken in the executive meeting.
Sources said most key leaders within the party were of the view that Kumar being its most prominent face should take charge of the organisation at this crucial time.
The party is part of the opposition INDIA bloc.
Singh’s leadership style was also criticised by several leaders within the party in their recent interactions with Kumar, the sources said.
Amid reports of rift within the party, the chief minister has worked to project a picture of unity by keeping him by his side. Sources within the party have been dismissive of reports that Singh’s perceived proximity to the RJD was a reason behind his ouster, noting that he has been a close ally of Kumar for decades.
Kumar said in the executive meeting that he was not personally keen to take over as the party’s president but will abide by the decision of national executive members who heartily endorsed the development, sources said.
Many enthusiastic members of the party raised slogans at the venue, projecting their leader as a prime ministerial candidate.
Among several proposals discussed in the meeting was the Kumar’s leadership in pushing for caste census and getting a “caste survey” done in Bihar, leading to the state government enhancing the reservation from the existing 60 per cent to 75 per cent.
Every party is supporting it now, it noted.
Amid the JD(U)’s perceived unhappiness with leading members of the INDIA bloc for not giving its most preeminent leader a formal role in the alliance, one of the proposals has cited his role in reaching out to different opposition parties to bring them together after he snapped ties with the BJP in August, 2022.
Its general secretary Dhananjay Singh noted that it was Kumar who made it clear that there cannot be an opposition alliance without the Congress when some regional satraps, including BRS leader K Chandrashekar Rao, had floated the idea of a front of different non-BJP parties minus the Congress.
The executive has also condemned the suspension of 146 opposition MPs from Parliament during the recent Winter Session.
Kumar said in the meeting that he will ensure that senior members of the party are given different roles.
Singh had on Thursday rebuffed reports about his likely departure as JD(U) president and any rift within the party.
“You are trying to set the narrative… JD(U) is one and will remain united,” he said in response to the media’s queries on his resignation and differences in the party, asserting that it is a routine meeting, a view also echoed by Kumar before he boarded the flight from Patna to Delhi.
“If I have to resign, I will call you (mediapersons) and consult you about what to write in the resignation letter so that you can go to the BJP office and get the draft,” Singh had said sarcastically.