Moments after Nitish Kumar took oath for the record fourth term as Bihar Chief Minister, he admitted that he would miss his long-time deputy Sushil Kumar Modi. Setting the terms for a whole new dynamic after scoring bigger than ally Nitish Kumar in the election, the BJP has decided to move Sushil Modi out of Bihar and appoint two new Deputy Chief Ministers.
The BJP denied that Sushil Modi, who has been Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister for much of Nitish Kumar’s 15 years in power, was upset over the shake-up.
“Sushil Modi ji is not at all upset. He is an asset to us. The party will think about him, a new responsibility will be given to him,” Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP’s in-charge for the Bihar polls, told news agency ANI.
Speculation that Sushil Modi was disappointed became stronger after he posted yesterday: “The BJP and the Sangh Parivar gave me so much in the political life of 40 years that someone else might have not received it. I will discharge the responsibility that will be given to me. No one can take away the post of the worker.”
His party colleague and Union Minister Giriraj Singh appeared to reassure Sushil Modi as he tweeted: “Respected Sushil ji, you are the leader, you had the post of Deputy Chief Minister, you will continue to remain the leader of BJP in the future as well, nobody’s status is determined by the post he holds.”
Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi’s long association transcended the ups and downs of the ties between their parties. Mr Modi often stepped in when cracks surfaced in the National Democratic Alliance in Bihar and was foremost in defending Nitish Kumar when he faced attacks from Chirag Paswan or even from BJP leaders.
Mr Modi is widely believed to have crafted the collapse of Nitish Kumar’s alliance with the RJD and Congress in 2017. Amid corruption allegations against the RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, then his Deputy, Mr Kumar dumped the mahagathbandhan, resigned and returned to power within 14 hours with the NDA as his partner.
Nitish Kumar’s response to reporters after his swearing-in betrayed his dejection.
“I will fulfil my responsibilities, what else? Every time something or the other is new,” he said when asked about the drastic changes.
On whether Sushil Modi would have better served Bihar, Mr Kumar said: “It is the BJP’s decision. You should ask the BJP.”
Would he miss Sushil Modi? “Yes,” the Chief Minister replied simply.