Bihar Cabinet expansion: 31 ministers take oath, Nitish retains Home
Bihar Chief Minister (CM) Nitish Kumar expanded his new Cabinet on Tuesday, inducting 31 new ministers, including a huge contingent of 16 from key ally Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), 11 from his own party, Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), two from Congress, one from Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and an Independent, even as Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) predicted Bihar was in for hard times.
“You can imagine the direction Bihar is going to take now,” said BJP Member of Parliament Sushil Modi after Anand Mohan Singh, who has several criminal cases registered against him in the state, was made a minister.
The CM retained the Home portfolio. Tejashwi Yadav was given the Health portfolio. Party chief Lalu Prasad’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav, who was the state health minister in the previous Grand Alliance government, got the Environment and Forest portfolio.
Surendra Yadav, Lalit Yadav, Kumar Sarvjeet, Prof Chandrashekhar, Ramanand Yadav, Shahnabaz Alam, Sameer Mahaseth, Anita Devi, Jayant Raj, and Sudhakar Singh (son of Bihar RJD President Jagadanand Singh) were among those who took oath as ministers.
Others included from the RJD were Jitendra Rai, Kartikeya Singh, Ismyl Mansuri, Jitendra Singh, and Surendra Ram.
Not surprisingly, the largest complement of ministers from the RJD quota was from the Yadav caste. Interestingly, while there was an effort to balance caste and regions, two major regions where the Mahagathbandhan reported big wins in the last Assembly election — Buxar and Bhojpur — did not get representation, leading many to believe Nitish would have no option but to expand his Council of Ministers later. The government can have a maximum of 36 ministers, including the CM.
When it came to his own party, Nitish retained his old team. Vijay Kumar Choudhary, Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Sanjay Kumar Jha, Ashok Choudhary, Sharavan Kumar, Jama Khan, Sheela Kumari, Sunil Kumar, Jayant Raj, Leshi Singh, and Madan Sahni were all inducted as ministers.
The surprise came from the Congress: instead of the old guard, it was Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) Afaq Alam and Murai Prasad Gautam who became ministers. This could cause some heartburn in the party as there were many among the 19 MLAs who expected to get a portfolio.
Santosh Suman from HAM, led by his father Jitan Ram Manjhi, and an Independent MLA Sumit Kumar Singh were also inducted into the state Cabinet. Among the 31 ministers were three women — Leshi Singh, Sheela Kumari, and Anita Devi.
There are five Muslims in the Council of Ministers, leading BJP National Spokesman Sanjay Mayukh to comment: “This is not a Cabinet headed by Nitish. It bears the imprint of Tejashwi Yadav. We will expose the inherent contradictions of this opportunistic alliance”.
BJP President Sanjay Jaiswal’s Facebook post said there was a dramatic decline “in the representation of extremely backward classes (EBC), from six to only three”. The representation of EBCs or Ati Pichhre castes has been a consistent refrain of Nitish for the past decade.
The next challenge is to unseat Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha, who is from the BJP, and replace him with someone from the Mahagathbandhan. Sources in Patna said one candidate was Awadh Bihari Chaudhary, a veteran RJD leader who was initially expected to be inducted into the ministry.
The BJP was also agog at the fact that Upendra Kushwaha, the man at the forefront of the anti-BJP tendency in the JD(U), was not among those given a berth. “I was expecting Kushwaha to be sworn in. Where is he?” asked Modi.
The BJP’s central leadership held a parallel meeting with the party’s Bihar unit leaders. The party is expected to announce organisational changes. BJP National President J P Nadda presided over the meeting that was attended by general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh.
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