Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had endorsed now estranged aide RCP Singh as the Janata Dal United face in Union cabinet, Home Minister Amit Shah said at the BJP’s meeting on Bihar yesterday, sources said.
The meeting of the BJP’s Bihar core committee was called to discuss the strategy following Mr Kumar’s sudden move to call off the alliance and form a new government with Rashtriya Janata Dal’s support.
According to sources, responding to Mr Kumar’s charge that he did not approve Mr Singh’s selection as JD(U)’s representative in Union cabinet, Mr Shah said, “Galat bola”, meaning, “he’s lying”.
The Home Minister said Mr Kumar wanted two cabinet berths, but when he was told that the BJP could only offer one, he had endorsed Mr Singh’s name, according to sources. Mr Shah had then assured the Bihar Chief Minister of a rethink on his demand later, sources said.
Mr Singh, once a key aide of Mr Kumar and a former JDU president, had a starring role in the crisis that ended the BJP-JDU alliance in the politically significant state.
He was a Rajya Sabha MP and a Union minister, but Nitish Kumar came to see him as a proxy for Amit Shah. Mr Singh was accused by his own party of rampant corruption. Earlier, he was refused an extension of his Rajya Sabha seat, which meant he had to resign as a Union minister. He eventually resigned from the party, alleging that Mr Kumar was a “man full of vendetta”.
Nitish Kumar’s anger, say sources close to him, rested mainly in what he perceived as a concerted attempt by Mr Shah to “remote control” Bihar. To register his protest, Mr Kumar skipped several key meetings called by Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
After parting ways with the BJP, Mr Kumar said he did not want to become the Chief Minister after the 2020 Assembly polls but was pressured into accepting the post.
“How many seats did we win in 2015! And look at what we have been reduced to. Ask people in the party what they have been reduced to,” he told mediapersons.
Politically isolated in Bihar now, the BJP called yesterday’s meeting to brainstorm on its strategy for the way ahead. The party seniormost leaders, it is learnt, were in the favour of focusing on the upper castes and finding a face that can challenge Nitish Kumar.