Nitish set to strike a hard bargain - Hindustan Times
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Nitish set to strike a hard bargain

By, Patna
Jun 05, 2024 08:55 PM IST

Bihar CM’s party JD-U, a part of NDA, has won 12 seats in LS polls, emerging as a key player in the formation of the next government at the Centre.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), which has emerged as a key player in the formation of the next government at the Centre, is set to strike a hard bargain with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is seeking a third term in the office as the head of the NDA government after the just concluded parliamentary elections.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav on board a flight from Patna to Delhi on Wednesday. (HT photo)
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav on board a flight from Patna to Delhi on Wednesday. (HT photo)

Modi’s BJP has won 240 seats in the Lok Sabha, far short of the majority mark of 272 in the 543-member Lower House of Parliament, and is dependent on its allies to form the next government. The JD-U, headed by Nitish Kumar, has won 12 seats, all in Bihar.

Kumar’s party’s wish list contains a higher allocation of ministerial berths in the union cabinet for the party MPs, more central funds, early assembly polls in Bihar and a special category status for the state, according to JD-U leaders.

Addressing a press conference in Patna on Wednesday, Bihar minister and senior JD-U leader Vijay Kumar Choudhary said his party will remain with the BJP-led NDA, but would stick to its demand for special category status to Bihar.

Choudhary, who is Bihar’s parliamentary affairs minister, said, “Every alliance wants us with them... but we are part of NDA and will remain with it. But there are certain demands related to financial condition and economy of Bihar that need to be addressed by the Centre. Bihar is managing its finances on its own. We are among the poorest states of the country. Our demand for special category status and special package for the state is justified and must be fulfilled. We will stick to this demand.

Earlier in the day, Nitish Kumar left for Delhi to take part in an NDA meeting scheduled later in the day.

Before the results came in, JD-U was promised at least three ministerial berths of cabinet rank and one as minister of state in the union cabinet, party insiders said. “ It is obvious we are in a position for a better bargaining. We are hoping to get at least four ministerial berths of cabinet rank, besides one MoS berth,”a senior JD-U leader said, requesting anonymity.

He said the party is keen on portfolios like railways, rural development and water resources to “give us leverage in accelerating development in the state.”

Secondly, CM Kumar is said to be also keen on early assembly polls in the state to take advantage of the conducive environment towards JD-U and NDA.

The NDA, comprising BJP, JD-U, LJP(RV) and HAM, has won 30 of the total 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar in the just concluded polls.

JD-U currently has 45 MLAs in Bihar.

The tenure of the current state assembly will expire on November 2025. Last assembly polls in Bihar were held in October-November 2020, in which JD-U won 43 seats while BJP got 74 seats. Two other MLAs, one from BSP and another an Independent, joined JD-U later.

Another big demand of CM Kumar is said to be a higher allocation of central funds to smoothly execute the ambitious scheme of giving 2 lakh as financial assistance in instalments to 94 lakh families from poor background, who were identified in the caste based socio-economic survey conducted in 2023. In February this year, CM Kumar had launched the Bihar Laghu Udhyami Yojana to provide financial assistance of 2 lakh to each family identified as poor in the caste-based survey.

“Higher central funds would help us in a big way in funding the scheme and execute it before the targeted five-year period,” said Khalid Anwar, JD-U MLC.

JD-U’s U-turns

JD-U is one of the oldest allies of BJP, but has switched sides frequently. The party deserted the BJP-led NDA and successfully fought the 2015 assembly elections in alliance with RJD and smaller parties. In 2017, however, JD-U returned to the BJP-led NDA and fought the 2020 state polls as part of the alliance. Once again, in 2022, Kumar’s party joined hands with RJD-led alliance. In the latest U-turn, JD-U returned to the NDA in January this year.

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