The Janata Dal United (JDU) is likely to join the BJP-led government at the Centre once the Union Cabinet is expanded. There are speculations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may expand his Cabinet after 14 January, when the inauspicious “Kharmas” period would be over.
According to sources, leaders of the two parties have held informal talks on the issue. Though the exact number of berths to be allocated to the JDU could not be ascertained, sources said the JDU may have three portfolios—all ministers of state, but one of them could be with independent charge.
JDU MPs Rajiv Ranjan Singh, alias Lalan Singh, and Ram Chandra Prasad Singh are the front-runners who could be inducted. Others whose names are also doing the rounds include Santosh Kushwaha and C.P. Chandravanshi.
The party had decided to opt out of the Union Cabinet after the Lok Sabha results were announced last year. As of now, there are five Ministers from Bihar in the Union Cabinet—four from the BJP and one from the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
Sources said the JDU has become the biggest alliance partner since its old ally—Shiv Sena—quit the government. The JDU has 16 MPs in the Lok Sabha and six in the Rajya Sabha. Since Bihar is going for Assembly elections later this year, the BJP’s move is seen as part of cementing its ties with the alliance partner.
BJP president and Home Minister Amit Shah has already announced that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would be the NDA’s CM candidate. The BJP feels that the JDU needs to be given due respect so that the latter stays with the NDA.
The JDU, this is to be noted, had voted in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), despite its initial objections to it in the both Houses of Parliament last month. However, it subsequently said it would not allow the compilation of a National Register of Citizens (NRC), but the Centre clarified that a national NRC was not on the agenda. The JDU had won 16 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar in the recent Lok Sabha elections. The BJP had offered one Ministerial berth, which was not acceptable to Nitish Kumar. Subsequently, the JDU decided not to join the Cabinet. Nitish Kumar also expanded his cabinet in the state but did not give representation to the BJP.