Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has called a meeting of all Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)] MLAs and MPs on 9 August, which could be about trying to resolve his party's growing unease with the BJP or part ways. The main issue that makes the leading NDA partner in Bihar Kumar upset with the leading partner at the Centre is the Narendra Modi government's offer of token representation to allies as union ministers.
The JD(U) had denied another Rajya Sabha berth last month to its former member RCP Singh, who had taken a spot in Prime Minister Modi's cabinet last year without consulting the chief minister. Yesterday, Singh bade farewell to the JD(U) over the Rajya Sabha snub.
"There's a conspiracy against me because I'd become union minister," said Singh, a former Indian Administrative Service officer who was once the national president of the JD(U). "I'll just say that there's no cure to jealousy," he said while leaving the JD(U) yesterday. "Nitish Kumar will not become Prime Minister in any of his seven lives," he said, describing the JD(U) as a sinking ship.
Today, Kumar sent out his party's top leaders to respond to allegations by Singh of pettiness and for allegedly dragging his family into a political fight citing illegal property deals.
In a hurry to rubbish Singh's allegation, JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan (Lalan) Singh overreacted by threatening the alliance party BJP. "What is the need to join the union cabinet? The chief minister had decided in 2019 we won't be part of the Union Cabinet," Rajiv Ranjan told reporters. He said the JD(U) would not join the Union Cabinet shortly too, leading to speculation of a rift that cannot be mended.
The sudden increase in outbursts of Nitish Kumar's aides like Rajiv Ranjan is seen as a calculated move to put pressure on the BJP to yield to Nitish Kumar's demands, including removing Bihar assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Singh, not known to be on good terms with Nitish Kumar.
The chief minister, citing health reasons, had stayed away from a meeting of the government think-tank Niti Aayog in Delhi this weekend, which 23 chief ministers including West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee had attended. The absence was seen as another anger shown by Kumar at the BJP.
Singh had denied the charge of negotiating directly with the Modi government for a ministerial position in the centre. He said Home Minister Amit Shah had spoken to Kumar about cabinet expansion and offered one berth to the party on the condition that Singh himself become a Union Minister.
Singh also denied the JD(U)'s accusations that there are irregularities in his property deals. "These properties belong to my wife and other dependents, who have been paying due tax since 2010," he said. "I don't know what the party wants to investigate. I have nothing to hide," he said.