As Sena, BJP Wrestle In Maharashtra, A Signal From Nitish Kumar

After the Lok Sabha election in May, Nitish Kumar had refused to join the government in Delhi when his party was offered only one ministerial berth.

JDU said it was open to an offer of a cabinet berth in the Modi government

Highlights

  • Janata Dal United says it is open to an offer of a cabinet berth
  • The party said it would stick to demand of proportional representation
  • Comments come as BJP is in a tussle with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra
Patna:

The BJP, engaged in a tussle with ally Shiv Sena over power sharing in Maharashtra, may soon have another battle on its hands. In Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United on Wednesday said it was open to an offer of a cabinet berth in the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. The party, however, insisted that it would stick to its demand of proportional representation, which had proved a deal breaker the last time.

After the JDU's National Council meeting in Delhi earlier in the day, the party's national spokesman KC Tyagi said if participation is based on numbers and the top leadership -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah - try to bring Janata Dal United in the Union cabinet, "then we will welcome this step".

After the Lok Sabha election in May, Nitish Kumar had refused to join the government in Delhi when his party was offered only one ministerial berth. When he insisted on proportional representation in view of the high number of Lok Sabha seats his party won in Bihar, the BJP conveyed that given its massive victory, it was offering all allies a token representation.

The two parties, which form the ruling alliance in Bihar, have been at odds since. The rift showed on several instances, including the recent floods in Patna, when the state government's handling of the situation was criticised  by a section of the BJP led by Union minister Giriraj Singh.  

The shift in JDU's stance comes as the Shiv Sena is holding firm on its demand for a 50:50 power share, which translates to the Chief Minister's post for half the 5-year term and half the ministerial berths in the state.

While the BJP has made it clear that it was not ready to entertain the Sena's demand, sources said during the hectic back-channel negotiations, the Sena has been offered not just the post of the deputy Chief Minister, but a chunk of portfolios in Maharashtra and at the Centre.

Mr Kumar's party does not want to be left behind if there is a possibility of the BJP handing out berths at the Centre again -- especially when the Sena had taken a leaf out of Nitish Kumar's book to set it on the highway to Delhi.

It was Nitish Kumar who had insisted on a 50:50 formula for sharing of Lok Sabha seats, a demand the BJP had accepted. The Sena insists that the 50:50 power share it wants was discussed with BJP chief Amit Shah ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

Assembly elections will be held in Bihar next year and Amit Shah has made it clear that the ruling coalition will contest it under Mr Kumar's leadership. Today's comment from the JDU is seen as an indication that they might be holding out for more.

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