- Nitish Kumar felt one cabinet spot offer was inadequate: Sources
- Made veto clear when PM Modi called him, his party leaders said
- Will continue to be a committed part of NDA, Nitish Kumar said
Nitish Kumar has turned down an offer for his party to join Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, he confirmed just ahead of the oath-taking ceremony on Thursday.
Mr Kumar told reporters that nobody from his party will feature in the government as he was leaving his residence in Delhi to head to Rashtrapati Bhawan where the PM was sworn in along with a council of ministers. However, he said his party, the Janata Dal United, remains a committed constituent of the NDA.
Sources close to the Bihar Chief Minister said that his party had been offered one cabinet spot but felt this was inadequate. His party's leaders, who asked not to be named, said PM Modi phoned him on Tuesday after he made his veto clear.
Mr Kumar and the BJP contested 17 seats each in Bihar in the general election that saw the PM being re-elected with a spectacular majority. The BJP-led alliance lost just one of Bihar's 40 seats. Mr Kumar's party was successful in 16.
The BJP on its own won 303 seats in the country, zipping easily past the half-way mark of 272, which means it could have formed the government without any allies lending their support to the party.
Mr Kumar was the only BJP ally who Amit Shah, the BJP president, visited while deciding the composition of the government. The conferral was meant as a show of respect for the Bihar Chief Minister.
Mr Shah joined the cabinet this evening.
Sources said that Mr Kumar made it clear that one cabinet portfolio was unacceptable given that BJP allies with far smaller contributions to the National Democratic Alliance or NDA were getting the same representation in the cabinet. He named the Akali Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan in his argument. Sources in Mr Kumar's party say there can be no symbolic representation and they can only join when there is proportional representation.
Mr Kumar's stand is based on the fact that Bihar votes next year for its state government and his accepting one cabinet position would be seen as caving in to the BJP ahead of what will be tough negotiations for how the partners should split the seats they will contest.
He told the media, "What's the point of (this) symbolic representation, we are together". He waited for the BJP to better its offer, reportedly made on Wednesday, before telling his party as late as this afternoon that they would sit it out.