Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today left for the national capital. While one of his aides said the visit is for medical reasons, speculation ran rife that bargaining a decent share in the Union cabinet was also on the agenda of the JD(U) leader.
The JD(U) has been a BJP ally for close to three decades, barring a hiatus in 2013-2017. Mr Kumar, who had himself served in the cabinet headed by late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, turned down the offer of a "token representation" to all alliance partners after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
"I do not know why his Delhi tour is being linked to the proposed cabinet reshuffle. To the best of my knowledge, he needs treatment for some eye problem and is visiting the national capital for that purpose," said Rajiv Ranjan Singh, one of the closest aides of Mr Kumar.
The Union cabinet reshuffle is a prerogative of the Prime Minister and it is for him to decide whom to hold consultations with on the issue, Mr Singh said.
Mr Singh, who has been with Mr Kumar ever since the latter broke ranks with Lalu Prasad, is seen as one of the candidates the JD(U) might back, were it to join the Union council of ministers.
Another ministerial probable R C P Singh, who succeeded Mr Kumar as the national president of the party a few months ago, laughed off at the suggestion but dropped hints that the JD(U) was now eyeing a spot in the Union government.
"My name has been doing the rounds since 2017. Any decision as to who will be in the Union cabinet from our party has to be taken by our leader. Of course, he does so after consulting all," said Mr Singh, a former IAS officer.
He said, "We agree, it does not look good that we are partners in power in the state but not at the Centre, though we are a part of the NDA there as well. Things will look up for both parties once we join the Union government."