NEW DELHI: Even as Nitish Kumar went back to the BJP fold and became Chief Minister again, the Opposition in Bihar for once has emerged from the crisis with some guns blaring. For the old Rashtriya Janata Dal war horse Lalu Yadav this, according to sources close to him, is the bugle for the 2019 general elections and the party has been set into motion to prepare accordingly.

Even as legislators are being approached and asked to go into the field---the RJD has 80 MLAs as against Nitish Kumar’s 70---Lalu Yadav is pulling out the plug for the big rally that had been originally scheduled in Parna for August 27. RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said that this will now be held with more fanfare than initially planned, with all Opposition leaders being contacted afresh to attend the meet.

The invitees include Chief Ministers Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik from Delhi, West Bengal and Orissa respectively; and Opposition parties like DMK, National Conference, Samajwadi party along with the Congress and the Left parties. Jha was optimistic that this rally will now herald Opposition unity for the Lok Sabha polls as all have now realised that there is no more time to waste. “And we have to jump into the election field now if we want to defeat the BJP,” he said.

Significantly, the Janata Dal (U) is feeling the heat of the sudden decision with the Kerala unit of the party expressing disapproval of the alliance. “We are not accepting the JD-U joining the NDA and our relations with Nitish Kumar has ended. It’s shocking that Nitish Kumar has joined the NDA. We all thought that he will fight the fascist tendencies but he has now become a part of it,” Kerala JD(U) chief, MP Veerendra Kumar told reporters.

Sharad Yadav has been silent after the event and is clearly hedging his bets. The Citizen was unable to reach him even though was at his residence in Delhi. He has not gone to Patna for the swearing in. His relations with Nitish Kumar have always been uneasy, and all eyes are on him for the next move, if any of course.

In the Congress and RJD assessment in Bihar, Nitish Kumar had planned his exit a while ago and there was nothing that they could have done to stop him. “This was clear from his speech and the manner in which he was embraced by the BJP,” the sources said. The second conclusion that the two parties have come to is that it is better for the Opposition that Nitish Kumar revealed his cards now, instead of doing the same further down the line on the eve of the elections. “There is sufficient time for us to recover from this blow,” the sources added.

Lalu Yadav and the Congress in Bihar have managed to ensure a fairly stable relationship, going back to before the JD(U) joined them last year in the mahagathbandan. Sources said that Lalu Yadav was now on the war path and determined to build a strong Opposition counter to the BJP. The RJD had got back its Yadav vote, after a hiatus, in the last polls because of the alliance and the strategy now is centred around keeping this electorate intact.

The Opposition did not waste time in starting a volley of fire aimed at Nitish Kumar. Lalu Yadav, always incorrigible immediately declared that he would get together Mamata, Akhilesh Mayawati with Nitish Kumar’s desertion now of little consequence. “So what if Nitish Kumar has gone,” he asked adding that this move would spell the destruction of the Bihar CM and his party. He said that the peoples mandate was “for Nitish and Lalu” and this the former has betrayed.

The Congress party has also stepped in with Ghulam Nabi Azad, Shashi Tharoor targeting both the BJP and Nitish Kumar for the ‘betrayal’. Tharoor pointed out how this is the third time that the BJP has formed the government after losing the elections, citing Goa, Manipur and Bihar as the instances that “show our democracy in poor light.” Betrayal and flip flop politics of Kumar has been under attack from the Opposition even as the CM has sought to focus on corruption and development. Party vice president Rahul Gandhi said they had known of this decision for the past four months and that Nitish Kumar was only concerned about his own benefit.

Samajwadi party’s Akhilesh Yadav tweeted a line from a popular Bollywood song, “"Na na karte pyar tumhi se kar baithe, karna tha inkar, magar ikrar, tumhi se kar baithe". (kept saying no but ended up in love with you).

Mayawati also responded to Kumar with, ““Jo kuch ho raha hai loktantra ke liye shubh sanket nahi (Whatever is happening is not a sign of healthy democracy).” “Desh ki aam janta ko aage aakar loktantra ko kamzor hone se bachana hoga” (The common man must step forward and stop this disintegration of the democracy).

Lalu Yadav, in a new assertion, is now sitting firmly in the drivers seat in Patna even as he has informed his party of the key role he expects to now play in forging new Opposition unity.