5 months on, Nitish Kumar party’s polite reminder to BJP on Cabinet berth
The latest proposal by JD (U), which rules Bihar in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) , came at its national executive council meeting in Delhi on a day chief minister Nitish Kumar was re-elected party president for the next three years.Updated: Oct 30, 2019, 20:24 IST
Five months after refusing a berth in Union cabinet, the Janata Dal (United), or JD (U), indicated on Wednesday that it was ready to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government if the party was given representation in the ministry in proportion with the number of members it has in Parliament.
The latest proposal by JD (U), which rules Bihar in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) , came at its national executive council meeting in Delhi on a day chief minister Nitish Kumar was re-elected party president for the next three years.
The JD (U) has 16 MPs in the Lok Sabha and six in the Rajya Sabha.
“We will consider joining the cabinet without any hesitation if we get an invite from NDA leaders, especially PM Narendra Modi and (BJP president) Amit Shah, and simultaneously given proportional representation as per the numbers. This will make the NDA more progressive, cohesive and broad-based,” said JD (U)’s principal general secretary K C Tyagi, briefing reporters on the national executive council meeting.
Following the April-May general elections, the JD (U) rejected the one cabinet berth it was offered in the second term of the Narendra Modi government, saying it didn’t want merely symbolic representation in the cabinet.
Tyagi noted that despite being the largest party in Bihar, the JD (U) had offered the post of deputy chief minister to the BJP. “We want cohesiveness in Bihar,” he added.
“The 2015 Bihar Assembly poll was against the BJP but we happily shared ministerial berths with them in the interest of the alliance dharma,” he added. Party general secretary Pawan Verma seconded Tyagi.
Nitish Kumar was upset that his party had been offered only one cabinet berth in the NDA 2 government, but never displayed his anger in public.
In a tit-for-tat action, Kumar had then expanded the Bihar cabinet by including eight legislators of his party and offered only one to the BJP. The BJP is still to name a candidate for the vacant ministerial berth.
Political analyst D M Diwakar of the A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies in Patna said he found no merit in JD (U)’s demand for proportional representation.
“After the recent by-poll debacle, which was not at all encouraging for the JD (U), Kumar is trying to assert himself at the Centre. His earlier demand for two berths was summarily rejected and it is likely to be rejected this time too,” Diwakar said.
Kumar’s election to a second term as party president follows the JD (U)’s defeat in three out of four assembly by-elections in Bihar. The JD (U) is set to go it alone to expand its footprint beyond Bihar, including in states that are currently ruled by the BJP.
The recent debacle in the by-elections has once again fuelled speculation that all is not well within the Bihar coalition despite Shah’s announcement that Kumar will be the NDA’s chief ministerial face in the 2020 assembly elections. Leaders and workers of the JD (U) and BJP have been blaming each other for the by-polls reverses.