The importance of Nitish Kumar as JD(U) chief and Lallan Singh’s resignation

The frenzied speculation about rifts in the JD(U), with Rajiv Ranjan Singh stepping down as JD(U) president, appear misplaced at the moment

Former president of JD(U) Lalan Singh (left) and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar (photo: @LokPoll/X)
Former president of JD(U) Lalan Singh (left) and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar (photo: @LokPoll/X)


How significant is the election of Nitish Kumar as Janata Dal (United) president in New Delhi on Friday? At the meeting of the party’s national executive, incumbent president Rajiv Ranjan — or Lallan Singh as he is popularly known — announced his resignation and proposed the Bihar chief minister’s name as the next president. The resolution was carried unanimously within minutes.

JD(U) general secretary Ram Kumar Sharma said, "Lalan Singh first proposed his resignation and it was accepted. Simultaneously, the resolution was passed that Nitish Kumar would be the next president."

The development came in the wake of persistent media reports, fuelled by BJP leaders from Bihar, about rifts within the JD(U). Sources close to both Nitish Kumar and Lallan Singh, however, rubbished the rumours and maintained that a change of guard had become necessary as Singh, a two-term MP from Munger, will be busy in campaigning in his own constituency and will not be available for organisational affairs in state capital Patna.

These sources also claimed that two working presidents are likely to be appointed soon, and maintained that seat-sharing talks between JD(U) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) are already sorted out, with the RJD likely to part with some seats from its quota for the Congress.

Insiders conceded that the Bihar chief minister has been keeping indifferent health for some time, and has been advised to restrict public interactions, and avoid crowds and public engagements. He, however, remains the most popular and acceptable face of the JD(U) and hence his election as party chief on Friday was a foregone conclusion.

Before stepping down on Friday, Singh himself cited the upcoming Lok Sabha elections as the reason for his resignation. Responding to media reports that Nitish Kumar was upset at Lallan Singh’s growing proximity to Lalu Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD, sources pointed out the three-decade ‘friendship’ between the two JD(U) leaders, and explained that in Munger, Lallan Singh needs Yadav votes to retain his seat, so what was wrong if Singh were to get close to the RJD?

Speculation had been triggered by the claim made by Union minister Giriraj Singh that Lalu Yadav had spoken of an imminent merger of the JD(U) with the RJD. He had also claimed that Tejashwi Yadav would soon replace Nitish Kumar as chief minister. Political circles in Bihar confirm that Nitish Kumar himself had expressed a desire to step down as chief minister, which had given rise to feverish speculation that the JD(U) was moving back to the NDA fold.

JD(U) sources dismissed such speculation as planted by the BJP, and claimed all is well within the party.   

The Lok Sabha elections of 2019 were contested by the BJP, JD(U) and the Lok Janshakti Party together as NDA allies in the state. The BJP had then won 17 seats, JD(U) 16 seats and LJP six seats, with the Congress bagging the remaining seat. JD(U), however broke away from the NDA and revived its coalition with RJD and the Congress in 2022.

Even more importantly, the BJP in 2019 had secured around 23 per cent of the votes in Bihar in alliance with JD(U), which had polled around 21 per cent of votes. If the BJP and LJP retain their vote share in 2024, they will have approximately 32 per cent, 10 per cent behind the combined vote share of JD(U), RJD and Congress if they manage to retain their 2019 votes.

This explains the BJP’s desperation to break the JD(U) and forge alliances with smaller caste-based parties in the state.

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