Under pressures from the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) publicly criticising the National Register of Citizens and also staking claims for lion’s share of seats, home minister Amit Shah on Thursday formally announced that the NDA would fight the assembly polls under the leadership of chief minister Nitish Kumar. The move assumes much significance given the BJP losing two states—Maharashtra and Jharkhand—in quick intervals and amply indicates how the party is just in no mood to lose another state of Bihar where assembly elections are due later this year.

Although the BJP leader had arrived in Bihar to garner the support of the masses for the Citizenship Act that has triggered nation-wide protests through a rally organised in Vaishali, he suddenly switched over to the state politics to make an announcement about who will lead the Bihar NDA, much to the amusement of the audience. The masses, as such, had been invited to hear Shah speak over Citizenship but they got more than that.

“I have come to end a rumour too. We will fight the next elections under the leadership of Nitish,” Shah announced while addressing the rally planned for making masses aware of the Citizenship Act. He asserted that the BJP-JD-U alliance was “intact” and that both parties would fight the elections together. In the next few minutes, he went on to explain how the growth rate in Bihar had increased under the NDA rule and how the NDA brought “Janta Raj” after ending the proverbial “Jungle Raj” of the RJD.

The announcement assumes much significance in the light of a section of BJP leaders seeking the removal of Nitish as NDA face in the state stating that the BJP is capable of fighting elections alone. “The people of Bihar are tired of Nitish Kumar and want some other on the state’s throne. The BJP is capable of fighting elections alone although they will go by the decision of the central leadership,” BJP legislator and former union minister Sanjay Paswan had said last week. What the BJP wanted was that Nitish had been on the throne for the past 15 years and that he should be replaced by some other leader from the BJP while Nitish should be shifted to the national politics.

The JD-U, on the other hand, subtly reacted by strongly opposing the Citizenship Act, NRC, and the NPR. The matter took a curious turn when chief minister Kumar himself gave a statement in the Bihar assembly summarily rejecting the NRC and even declared he was open to debates over CAA and NPR in the state assembly. Exerting further pressures on the BJP, the JD-U stressed for adopting 2010 seat-sharing formula when the JD-U had contested on 143 seats and BJP on 100 seats. The repeated flagging of these issues by the JD-U ultimately forced the BJP chief to “surrender”.

Reports said that emboldened after the party’s magnificent performance in the recently-held LS polls, the BJP had initially planned for replacing Nitish by some other BJP leader as NDA’s face for Bihar but ultimately gave up the idea after the party lost two states in quick succession last year.