The Janata Dal (United), or JD(U) may recommend its Rajya Sabha member of Parliament (MP) R.C.P. Singh and newly elected Lok Sabha MP from Munger Rajiv Ranjan Singh for cabinet berths in the new Narendra Modi government, if the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally is invited to be a part of the government, according to two people aware of the development.
The final selection to the Union cabinet will depend on Modi, the Prime Minister-elect, who is expected to accommodate his alliance partners at the centre.
The JD(U)’s move to identify its representatives in the cabinet comes against the backdrop of the party’s strong performance in the elections to the 17th Lok Sabha, in which it won 16 of the 17 seats that it contested from Bihar. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won all 17 seats and six seats, respectively that they contested, giving the NDA 39 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.
“Lalan Singh (as Rajiv Ranjan Singh is known) was an MLC (member of legislative council) and was asked to fight the Lok Sabha elections," said one of the two people aware of the JD(U) strategy who did not want to be named.
R.C.P. Singh is a former Uttar Pradesh cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and belongs to the Nalanda district of Bihar. He belongs to the same caste as Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and is considered close to him. R.C.P. Singh has been associated with Nitish Kumar since his stint in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and was also Kumar’s principal secretary in the state government till he joined politics.
Lalan Singh is Bihar’s water resources and planning and development minister and was made an MLC after he lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He was an MP in the 14th and 15th Lok Sabha and is considered a favourite of Kumar.
JD(U) national general secretary and national spokesperson Pavan K. Varma declined to speculate on the likelihood of R.C.P. Singh and Rajiv Ranjan Singh being inducted in the Union cabinet.
“We are part of the NDA and if invited we will be happy to be a part of the new government," said Varma, a former Rajya Sabha MP.
“The formation of the cabinet is completely the prerogative of the honourable Prime Minister who in his speech yesterday (Saturday) has himself said that one should not go by media reports," said Nalin Kohli, national spokesperson, BJP.
Kumar had earlier said that JD(U) isn’t hesitant about joining the government but the decision regarding the allies lies with the government’s leadership. Kumar attended a meeting of the NDA partners on Saturday in the national capital.
The NDA stormed back to power with a bigger mandate than in 2014, winning as many as 353 of the 542 seats in the Lok Sabha for which counting was held as election to the Vellore seat was cancelled. In 2014, the coalition had got 336 seats. Of the 353 seats that the NDA got this time, the BJP alone won 303.