The Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar on Sunday made it clear that it would not be part of the Narendra Modi-led Union Cabinet in its next round of expansion or reshuffle. Addressing a press conference in Patna on Sunday, JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh said that the JD(U) has decided to stick to its stated stand after the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 when it decided not be part of the Modi Cabinet after the BJP turned down its demand for “proportionate representation” at the Centre.
It was reported back then that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had demanded at least four Cabinet berths for the JD(U) while the BJP refused to accommodate more than one. Nitish had then announced that the JD(U) will not be part of the Union Cabinet. In the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the BJP won 17 seats while the JD(U) won 16.
The JD(U)’s reiteration of its earlier stand comes amid growing differences between the ruling partners on a host of issues. Nitish has skipped four central events in the past month. Two of them were led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On Sunday, Nitish skipped a meeting of the NITI Aayog governing council that was attended by most chief ministers, including Mamata Banerjee.
On Saturday, Ramchandra Prasad Singh, the sole minister in the Union Cabinet from the JD(U) quit the party after he was issued a show-cause notice over irregularities in the purchase of properties over the last nine years. Notably, Singh, who was once seen as a close aide of Nitish, fell out with him after dealing directly with the BJP to secure a ministerial berth for himself at the Centre, much to Nitish Kumar’s chagrin.
Announcing his decision to quit, Singh described the JD(U) as a “sinking ship”, adding that “Nitish Kumar will never become PM in his seven lives”. He also blamed the JD(U) for hatching a conspiracy against him, out of “jealousy” for having secured a ministerial berth at the Centre. “There is no cure for jealousy,” he said declaring his decision to quit the JD(U) in his Nalanda village where he has been camping to develop his base and projecting himself as the next Chief Minister of Bihar.
In signs that the relations between the JD(U) and the BJP may have reached a point of no repair, Lalan Singh, while addressing the press conference today sought to target the BJP. “What is the need to join the Union Cabinet? The Chief Minister had decided in 2019 we won’t be part of the Union Cabinet,” he told reporters.
Nitish has been miffed with the BJP over a number of reasons, the most prominent among them being the saffron party’s refusal to remove Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Singh, with whom he does not exactly share the most cordial of relations. The token representation that the BJP has offered to the JD(U), its largest alliance partner at the Centre, has been another pain point.
And Nitish has made no efforts to hide his displeasure with the BJP. In the past month, Nitish has skipped a meeting of chief ministers chaired by Home minister Amit Shah, the farewell dinner for outgoing President Ram Nath Kovind, Droupadi Murmu’s swearing-in ceremony and the NITI Aayog meeting on Sunday.
On the face of it, however, both parties maintain that the differences will not hamper their alliance going into the Lok Sabha elections in 2024, or the Assembly elections in Bihar in 2025.