Janata Dal-United chief Nitish Kumar wanted his two close aides RCP Singh and Lallan Singh to be inducted in the new Modi Cabinet.
JD-U opts out of Modi Government: Just moments before Narendra Modi’s swearing-in as the Prime Minister for the second term on Thursday (May 30), news about Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United opting out of the new government flashed in the media triggering speculations of early fissures appearing in the NDA. However, the JD-U tried to water down the issue, saying the alliance is strongly intact. Denying any grudges against the BJP, the JD-U on Friday said talks are underway between Nitish Kumar and BJP president Amit Shah to arrive at an amicable solution. Bihar Chief Minister and JD-U president Nitish Kumar too allayed all talks of differences between his party and the BJP.
Nitish Kumar stressed that there is no ‘resentment’ and that JD-U will continue to strongly support the Modi government. “It is not necessary to be part of the central government,” he said. “BJP national president Amit Shah yesterday (Wednesday) proposed a token participation of the allies of NDA in the next government. However, we apprised of our decision,” Nitish Kumar told reporters in New Delhi before going to attend Modi’s swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt.
Nitish Kumar’s caste calculations
What forced Nitish Kumar to opt out of the new Modi government? According to sources, the JD-U, which won 15 seats in Lok Sabha election 2019, wanted a greater participation in the Modi government. Nitish Kumar wanted at least two ministerial berths. He wanted his two close aides RCP Singh and Lallan Singh to be inducted in the new Cabinet. This would have helped him settle the social and caste arithmetic.
However, Nitish Kumar wanted to avoid sending any wrong signal to his vote base by picking either of the two leaders for a role in Modi’s team. Nitish Kumar was aware that he may be accused of siding with the forward castes by sending Lallan Singh to New Delhi. Had he picked RCP Singh, the JD-U chief would have been accused of favouring people of his caste (Kurmi) only.
So, when the BJP’s top leadership decided that it would accord one ministerial berth per ally, Nitish Mular’s calculations went haywire. Kurmis and Koeris form a considerable chunk (around 9% collectively) of Nitish Kumar’s vote base and any message against the backward class would give the Opposition an issue on a platter. On the other hand, favouring a leader from a backward community over another from a forward caste would have dented his image as ‘Vikas Purush’ besides adding to the allegation tag of favouring people only from his caste. Damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t, Nitish Kumar decided to dump the idea altogether, leaving it to the BJP leadership to approach him for a solution. That would give him some breathing room amid the party’s internal politics.
The new Modi Cabinet includes six ministers from Bihar – Ram Vilas Paswan, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Giriraj Singh, RK Singh, Ashwini Choubey and Nityanand Rai.