Nitish to take oath amid virtual Who’s Who of Indian politics

Patna, Nov 19 (IANS) Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Nitish Kumar will take oath on Friday as Bihar’s chief minister again, watched by a galaxy of national leaders ranged against the BJP. He will head the first JD-U-RJD-Congress coalition to rule Bihar.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi declining to attend the event, he and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which badly lost the assembly polls, would be represented by party leaders and central ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu and Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

The ceremony, to be held at the sprawling Gandhi Maidan, will draw tens of thousands of Nitish and RJD leader Lalu Prasad supporters besides nine chief ministers, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi, NCP president Sharad Pawar, former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and leaders of several other political parties.

The chief ministers are Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Tarun Gogoi (Assam), P.K. Chamling (Sikkim), O. Ibobi Singh (Manipur), Nabam Tuki (Arunachal Pradesh), Virbhadra Singh (Himachal Pradesh), Akhilesh Yadav (Uttar Pradesh) and S. Siddaramaiah (Karnataka).

Other political veterans would include CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D. Raja, INLD’s Abhay Chautala, DMK’s M.K. Stalin and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah.

There will also be former chief ministers Omar Abdullah (Jammu and Kashmir), Sheila Dikshit (Delhi), Bhupinder Hooda (Haryana), Shankarsinh Vaghela (Gujarat), Babulal Marandi and Hemant Soren (Jharkhand) and Ajit Jogi (Chhattisgarh).

The Grand Alliance of Nitish Kumar and including the RJD and Congress swept 178 of the 243 assembly seats, leaving 53 to the BJP and five to its three allies in an election outcome that Lalu Prasad said would have major political repercussion.

According to JD-U leaders, Nitish Kumar will take oath at the head of a 36-member council of ministers.

The RJD is the single largest party in the house with 80 seats followed by the JD-U (71) and the Congress (27 seats). There will be 16 RJD ministers, 15 from the JD-U and five from the Congress in the government. Lalu Prasad’s younger son Tejaswi Yadav is expected to get a plum post.

Supporters of the Janata Dal-United, RJD and Congress from across Bihar are expected to pour into the Gandhi Maidan. Hundreds of security personnel would protect the venue and the VVIPs.

JD-U state president Vashisht Narain Singh told the media that it was the first time such a large number of top politicians would attend the oath taking of Nitish Kumar.

“Such a thing has never happened. It is the beginning of opposition unity in the country,” he said.

Friday’s gathering would be the first major show of anti-BJP unity since Modi became the prime minister in May 2014.

Also expected to attend the event are B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar and reputed Supreme court lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who along with Mamata Banerjee and Kejriwal repeatedly urged voters in Bihar to defeat the BJP.

Nitish Kumar personally telephoned and invited Modi to the oath taking ceremony but the prime minister expressed his inability to attend because of his previous engagements, officials said.

Earlier, Nitish Kumar had invited BJP veteran L.K. Advani and estranged BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha to the event.

Lalu Prasad and JD-U president Sharad Yadav will be the main guests at the event.

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