New Delhi: The last minute decision by JD(U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to not nominate any MP to the council in protest against under-representation to allies could affect Bihar politics.
At the very least Kumar, known as a tough negotiator, has opened a front for bargaining for possibly a second cabinet berth. But worse could be the potential consequences on the 243-member strong Bihar assembly which is run by a JD(U) (73 MLAs) and BJP (54 MLAs) coalition government with a very thin margin.
Bihar is due for assembly polls in little over a year from now. For now, Kumar has clarified his party would continue to support the NDA government.
“The offer made by the BJP was not acceptable to us. But we are firmly with the National Democratic Alliance. But we will not join the government...We got the BJP's offer (for one ministerial post)...we discussed it in the party and conveyed yesterday (Wednesday) itself that it was not acceptable. We also reiterated our stand this morning,” Kumar told reporters on Thursday.
JD(U)’s position in Bihar is complicated by the fact that its alliance partner, the BJP, has allocated six ministerial berth to their MPs from Bihar, and allotted the same number of ministerial berths to the LJP as it has to JD(U). LJP fighting on just six seats was considered a junior partner in NDA in Bihar.
According to sources JD(U) was lobbying for three ministerial berths with BJP. RCP Singh, Rajeev Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh and Dinesh Chandra Yadav were the names given to BJP by JD(U).
Kumar is later learnt to have dropped the name of Dinesh Yadav and asked BJP president Amit Shah to accommodate the remaining two. However, BJP having this time made a principle of allotting just one ministerial berth to its allies, snubbed its alliance partner.
Sources in the JD(U), on the condition of anonymity, stated: “unfair treatment was not acceptable as both the partners have won almost same number of seats. If BJP was allocating six ministries from the state then JD(U) should not be accorded single birth.”
BJP state unit leader on condition of anonymity said, “BJP sacrificed five of its sitting members of Parliament for the sake of coalition. We will try our level best to sort out any confusion among allies.”
Will BJP bow down to the demands of Nitish Kumar, given that it has fought repeatedly with ‘Mr Clean’ Nitish as coalition’s face? Or will it stand its ground and call Nitish’s bluff, given the confidence that the party is enjoying through the surge in popularity of PM Modi, especially in Bihar where it won all the 17 seats it contested? This may be a negotiation that could go down the wire.