Why Nitish Kumar chose to stay out of the NDA cabinet
If there was one discordant note in the celebration of government formation, it was the Janata Dal (United), or JD (U), refusing to join the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government after being offered a single cabinet berth.
JD (U) won 16 of the 17 seats it contested in Bihar and so was unhappy with the formula worked out by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to give a single cabinet berth to each ally in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), regardless of the number of seats won.
HT has learnt that the BJP tried to convince the JD(U), till even a few minutes before the ministers being sworn in took the stage, but to no avail. BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav spent half the day trying to convince Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar to change his mind, but the latter stood firm, a senior JD (U) leader said on condition of anonymity.
Kumar didn’t mince words when he spoke to reporters in Patna a day after he attended the swearing-in ceremony.
“He (BJP president Amit Shah) said we are only giving one seat for all allies; we heard them. it seemed he wanted to give only symbolic representation (to allies). We thought it was not necessary. It should be proportional representation,’’ he said.
In an apparent swipe at his alliance partner, Kumar said, “No one should have any confusion that the victory which was registered by NDA in Bihar is the victory of the people of Bihar. If somebody is claiming that this is his personal victory, then they are delusional.’’
Kumar also denied that the JD (U) had asked for three seats. HT has learnt that this was the party’s expectation after it won 16 seats. Once the BJP’s offer of a single seat came, JD (U) leaders at various levels decided to reject it.
As one JD (U) leader pointed out, it was unfair that the Shiromani Akali Dal, with 2 MPs, should get the same cabinet representation as the JD (U).
Incidentally, the Shiv Sena, with a larger number of MPs at 18, also got a single cabinet berth, something it is unhappy with as well.
However, none of the alliance partners is in a position to make much of a fuss because the BJP has a clear majority with 303 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha.
“We are not upset or angry; in Bihar we are working together to run a government to end backwardness,’’ said Kumar.
While the ministers’ list was announced on Thursday, JD (U) leaders looked at the brighter side and said this also ensured that the JD (U) isn’t not subsumed by the BJP.
A BJP leader, when asked for his reaction, said, “We don’t take this negatively. We are working with the JD (U).”