Nitish Kumar rejects ‘symbolic’ presence in Union Cabinet

Bihar Chief Minister insists on “proportional representation” for JD(U).

May 31, 2019 09:08 pm | Updated 09:08 pm IST - Patna

No compromise:  Despite Amit Shah’s efforts, Nitish Kumar refused to accept one Cabinet berth for the JD(U).

No compromise: Despite Amit Shah’s efforts, Nitish Kumar refused to accept one Cabinet berth for the JD(U).

BJP chief Amit Shah made repeated attempts to bring Nitish Kumar around to accepting his proposal of one berth in the Modi Cabinet for the JD(U). However, the Bihar Chief Minister spurned the offer, insisting on “proportional representation” for his party.

Mr. Kumar, who returned here on Friday from the national capital after attending the swearing-in of the Narendra Modi government, 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”.

Offered Cabinet berth

The JD(U) president said Mr. Shah had 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 NDA 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 I will consult my party and get back to him,” Mr. 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.

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.

Mr. Kumar said he did not convey to Mr. 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 an MoS each.

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