Patna: Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief Nitish Kumar's decision to opt out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government has initiated a fresh debate about the changing political possibilities in Bihar. But this is not the first time the Bihar Chief Minister is seen standing against the popular verdict.
Addressing mediapersons on Friday, Nitish Kumar maintained that there was no problem in the JD-U's alliance with the saffron party over the number of ministerial berths offered to it, but added that his party stayed out as it did not want a symbolic representation in the Modi government.
The JD-U chief said his party's decision came after BJP President Amit Shah told them that one cabinet berth each was allotted to the NDA allies.
"We have told the BJP that we're neither unhappy nor dissatisfied. But getting symbolic representation in the Central government would be injustice to the people of Bihar, which goes for Assembly elections next year," said JD-U leader K.C. Tyagi.
Reportedly, the BJP was offering the JD-U just one seat in the Council of Ministers and the portfolio was also not of its choice.
"The JD-U was asking for fair treatment as both the allies have won an almost similar number of seats in Bihar. Nitish Kumar has stayed out of the government while preferring to remain with the NDA. The BJP must now show some magnanimity," said political analyst Surendra Kishore.
According to Kishore, "If just one JD-U MP was made a minister, the others would've started sulking. By opting out, Nitish Kumar has prevented any rifts in his party."
Known to be a tough negotiator, Nitish Kumar has often surprised political experts by swimming against the tide, whether he was with the opposition Grand Alliance (with the RJD and Congress) or with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
He supported the Modi government's decision to demonetise the currency. After India's surgical strikes on Pakistan, he went against the Opposition, which was demanding evidence, to back Modi.
But the present crisis between the NDA allies is likely to have ramifications. For long the JD-U has differed with the BJP on issues such as Article 370, the Ram Temple, Triple Talaq and the Uniform Civil Code. And it has publicly voiced its opinion on these.
The Nitish Kumar-led party has now started fanning the demand for special status to Bihar. His coalition government has 73 JD-U MLAs and 54 BJP MLAs in the 243-member Bihar assembly.