Cabinet Reshuffle: JDU waits for the 'call'
"I have no information about the ministry expansion. I have come to know (about it) from the media. There has been no talk on this issue. If the proposal comes, we will consider it," chief minister Nitish Kumar told reporters after he emerged from a public function here. Speaking at the same event a few minutes earlier, he had defended his decision to join the NDA, stressing that it would lead to Bihar's development.
JDU leaders though remained "hopeful". In Patna, JDU spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan declared that selection in the Union ministry was the prerogative of the Prime Minister. "But we are a part of the NDA now," he said in the same breath. Most JDU leaders were tight-lipped even as most of its 11 MPs and many of their supporters camped in Delhi expecting to get the "call" from BJP boss Amit Shah.
When the JDU walked out of the Grand Alliance and joined hands with the BJP on July 26, there was talk of it being offered at least two berths in the Union ministry. The names that cropped up were those of former IAS officer and Nitish confidant, R.C.P. Singh, and Ram Nath Thakur, the son of socialist icon and former chief minister Karpoori Thakur.
Although Nitish himself never publicly said it, within political circles it was assumed that after the party ratified its decision to join the NDA on August 19, its MPs would take oath in the next round of reshuffle. The buzz in political circles was that a role in government was part of the deal struck between Nitish and Prime Minister Modi for the JDU's re-entry into the BJP-led NDA.
The JDU leaders' perception about their party joining the Union ministry was strengthened by Rajiv Pratap Rudy's resignation. It was believed that Rudy's resignation was aimed at maintaining a "regional balance" as the JDU would have its members in the ministry. JDU leaders even picked their portfolios of choice, agriculture and railways emerging as the top favourites.
By Saturday evening, most senior JDU leaders had switched off their mobile phones as word filtered out from the NDA camp that this round of reshuffle would be reserved for the BJP. "But the Prime Minister has shown he can spring a surprise. Who knows, we might still get the call," chuckled a senior JDU leader who did not wish to be named.
State BJP leaders are as clueless. "When Nitishji broke off and joined us we did not have any information that we would join hands with the JDU all over again. Obviously, whatever discussion was held was between Nitish Kumar and the BJP high command. How should we know if inclusion in the Union ministry was a part of the agreement?" said a senior BJP leader.
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