BJP snubbed Dal berth plea

Ally was ready to offer only one central ministerial post

By Sanjeev Kumar Verma in Patna
  • Published 14.10.17
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Nitish Kumar

Patna, Oct. 13: Chief minister Nitish Kumar may have dismissed it as media speculation but his party did wrangle for Union ministerial seats in the cabinet expansion that Prime Minister Narendra Modi effected on September 3 this year, highly placed sources in both the BJP and the JDU have told The Telegraph.

"The JDU had asked for two berths in the Union council of ministers," a senior BJP functionary confided. "It wanted one cabinet berth and one of minister of state. Our party leadership, however, summarily rejected the demand, telling the JDU leadership that only one berth, that too of minister of state, could be given."

The BJP leadership also made it clear that the Prime Minister would decide the portfolio of the minister of state and the JDU would not have any say on that, the BJP functionary said.

"Having been used to getting special treatment during our earlier alliance which had lasted till 2013, the JDU then backed out and maintained that it didn't want any berth on these conditions," the BJP functionary added.

Sources in Nitish's party also corroborated that the JDU did hope to get two berths in the Union council of ministers.

"Had it been just speculation, the party would have definitely instructed its office bearers to contradict news items which started appearing in media a few days before the actual expansion that the JDU was likely to get two berths," a JDU source said.

The JDU functionary also said some party leaders who were hopeful of getting a place in the Union council of ministers were camping in Delhi as they were aware of the style of functioning of Narendra Modi, who is known for throwing last-minute surprises.

Nitish had claimed that no talks were held on the issue of JDU joining the Union cabinet, but that was after the expansion.

The JDU source, who spoke to The Telegraph under cover of anonymity, claimed that the party leaders had to come out with a face saving statement and hence the official stand after the reshuffle was that no discussion had taken place.

On record, however, the JDU stuck to its stand.

"Our party is part of the NDA and hence it becomes the discretion of the Prime Minister as far as inducting anyone in the Union council of ministers is concerned," JDU spokesperson Neeraj Kumar said when contacted for comment.

He insisted that the JDU entered into alliance with the BJP "in the interest of the state and not for getting ministerial berths in the Centre".

He added: "Efforts were being made to institutionalise the political corruption and we follow a policy of zero tolerance on corruption. That's why we walked out of the Grand Alliance." Commenting on Neeraj's claim, a BJP functionary said: "We don't want to humiliate any of our alliance partners, but it is a political reality that the BJP in its current avatar is a more powerful party than it used to be till 2013. Our party will not allow anyone to dictate terms."