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Why Nitish didn't join govt despite Shah's persuasion

May 31, 2019 19:41 IST

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose Janata Dal-United refused 'symbolic participation' in the Union cabinet, asserted on Friday that allies should have been given proportional representation in the cabinet.

The JD-U chief, however, made it clear that one should not have any confusion that being in the government is the only testimony that they are with the government.

"We are firmly with the NDA," Kumar told reporters at the airport in Patna after participating in the swearing-in ceremony of the Narendra Modi government.

 

"As the JD-U national president, I want to tell that there is no question of JD-U joining the Union cabinet in the future," Kumar said.

The chief minister added that his party does not have any problem or any kind of repentance on not being the part of the cabinet.

Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah made repeated attempts to bring Kumar around to accepting his proposal for one berth in the cabinet for the JD-U but the CM spurned the offer insisting on 'proportional representation' for his party.

Kumar, however, said there was no 'unease' between the alliance partners and that the decision against joining the ministry was taken as the JD-U's presence there would have been merely 'symbolic'.

The JD-U president said Shah called him up on May 28 and said he wanted to meet him for discussions the next day.

He said the two met in New Delhi where the BJP chief told him that his party wanted to share power with all National Democratic Alliance constituents, and suggested that the JD-U accept a cabinet berth.

"I kept listening to him and the sense I had was that it was to be a symbolic presence for the JD-U in the government. I didn't want that. Still, as he insisted, I told him that I will consult my party and get back to him," Kumar told reporters.

He said he consulted the JD-U office bearers and MPs -- 16 in the Lok Sabha and six in the Rajya Sabha -- on the issue.

"The unanimous view was that we should stay out of the ministry. Everybody felt there should be proportional representation in an alliance government," the Bihar chief minister said, adding he did not convey to Shah the number of seats he wanted for his party in the union council of ministers.

Media reports had claimed his talks with the BJP leadership collapsed as he insisted on a cabinet berth, one minister-of-state with independent charge and MoS each.

He said BJP general secretary in-charge of Bihar Bhupendra Yadav met him that night and repeated the offer.

"I told him there is no sense of regret or unease in my party on the issue. He have forged this alliance in the interest of Bihar and the coalition government is functioning smoothly," he said.

Kumar told Yadav the feeling in the JD-U was that there should be 'proportional representation' for his party.

When asked how that proportional representation would have been determined, he said, the number could be reached by taking into account the seats each party won country-wide or in Bihar.

"It was for them to decide. In any case, they had an absolute majority on their own. We were not ready for a symbolic presence in the government. We are with the (Modi) government. Being a part of it is not necessary," he said.

The Bihar chief minister said Shah again dialled him the next morning.

"I repeated what I had told the BJP general secretary. We may not be part of the government but we are firmly with it," he said.

The JD-U-BJP-Lok Janshakti Party alliance in Bihar swept the Lok Sabha polls winning 39 of the state's 40 seats.

The BJP and JD-U had contested 17 seats each. While the saffron party won all the seats it contested, the JD-U won 16. NDA allies like the Shiv Sena, which has two more MPs in the Lok Sabha than the JD-U, the LJP and the Akali Dal were all given one cabinet berth each which they readily accepted.

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