Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar signalled what was seen as a major climb-down today regarding his party's stance on Union cabinet berths. The Janata Dal United, he indicated, will be part of the Central government this time -- mostly on the BJP's terms. "I'm not aware of any formula... Whatever the respected Prime Minister decides we will accept," Mr Kumar said, adding that RCP Singh -- the National President of his Janata Dal United who is currently in Delhi -- has been authorised to finalise everything with BJP.
But it was clear from Nitish Kumar's statement that parleys are on with the BJP to extract maximum berths to ensure representation of the party's core vote bank -- the Economically Backward Classes, Mahadalits and non-Yadav OBCs (Other Backward Classes).
The capitulation of Mr Kumar, known for sticking to his demands in the past, on the BJP formula follows his party's dismal performance in the state elections.
Though the alliance had won, the Janata Dal United ceded the "Big Brother" position in the state alliance to the BJP, allowing it to call the shots.
Asked about his refusal to join the government at the Centre in 2019 when the BJP had offered a solitary cabinet berth on basis of its symbolic representation system, the Chief Minister said, "Jo hua so hua (what happened has happened)... at that time I was the (party) president, that has ended now... In today's context it is nothing special".
Back then, Mr Kumar -- who had served in the cabinet headed by the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee -- had opposed the BJP formula, arguing that an ally with significant contribution to the NDA victory deserves more.
When the BJP had refused to oblige, he had stayed away from the government. Sources in Mr Kumar's party said they can only join when there is proportional representation. Questioned about a rethink on the issue, he had said the subject is closed.