When Janata Dal United (JDU) national president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar met Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah on 29 May in Delhi, just one day before the swearing in of the Narendra Modi 2.0 Cabinet, there was no inkling among JDU leaders that Amit Shah would offer them only one post in the Cabinet.
Highly placed sources have said that Nitish Kumar was not “mentally prepared” and was taken aback when Shah offered him only one post.
“We had no number in mind (how many minster-ship the JDU wanted). There was an informal agreement among the JDU leadership that at least two positions—one Cabinet, one MoS—would be a justifiable number. However, the BJP president said one and the issue ended there. Nitish Kumar is not someone who would plead or bargain for something like a post in the Cabinet. The next day, Bihar BJP in-charge Bhupendra Yadav called Nitish Kumar with the same offer; Kumar politely refused,” a source said. According to these sources, the term “symbolic representation” that Nitish Kumar subsequently used in front of the media while addressing this issue, was first used by the BJP when Nitish was offered one ministerial berth in the Cabinet. “The justification of the BJP was that they were giving one seat to even Shiv Sena which had 18 MPs, one seat to LJP which had six MPs and so on. In place of such argument, there is little which the opposing party can say. Hence, we decided that that we will not join the Cabinet, not now, not later,” the source said. Though the JDU has gone out of its way to convey that message that this incident has not affected its relations with the BJP, people who have followed Nitish Kumar’s political career say that it would be naive to think that he will forget this incident or that this issue has ended here.
A Patna-based political observer said: “Nitish Kumar attended the oath-taking ceremony, but he exhibited that he was upset over the entire development when he did his own reshuffle in Bihar and did not take any BJP leader. He is someone who gives respect and expects the same amount of respect from his friends and foes. He had walked out of the grand alliance in Bihar when the two sons of Lalu Yadav tried to prevail over him and started bypassing him without caring whether he stays the Chief Minister or not. The BJP should have handled the present situation (representation in the Cabinet) in a much better way and acted like an elder brother. Nitish Kumar has already made it clear even before the polls that his views on issues like Article 370, 35A, UCC and Ram temple are totally different from the BJP. And the way things are right now, it will not be a big surprise if Bihar sees the Assembly electiond much before than they are scheduled for October 2020.”
Bihar-based BJP leaders declined to comment on the issue.
JDU leaders claim that the stupendous performance of the National Democratic Alliance in Bihar where it won 39 of the 40 seats, happened because of Nitish Kumar. A Patna-based JDU party source said. “Agree that there was a Modi wavw, but it got more powerful because of the good governance image of Nitish Kumar which was observed and written by national media too. The BJP should have realised this and acted accordingly.”