PATNA: A day after winning the trust vote in the Assembly for Bihar’s new JD(U)-BJP government, chief minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday expanded his cabinet by inducting 27 ministers – 14 from JD(U), 12 from BJP and one from BJP ally Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
With the induction of the 27 ministers who were administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Kesari Nath Tripathy, Nitish Kumar’s cabinet now has 29 members. Both Kumar and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi had taken oath on Thursday, less than 24 hours after Kumar resigned as the head of the grand alliance government and returned to the NDA after four years.
LJP chief and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s brother Pashupati Kumar Paras, who is not a member of either chamber of the Bihar legislature, was inducted into the cabinet. Sources said the LJP chief had met Nitish Kumar a day ago and requested him to give a berth to his brother. The decision shocked the two legislators LJP has in the Assembly. Pashupati Kumar Paras will soon be elected as a member of the state legislative council, said an LJP leader.
Two NDA allies – Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) of union minister Upendra Kushwaha – were reportedly unhappy for getting no cabinet berth.
While deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi had requested Jitan Ram Manjhi to be a minister, the latter had gently rejected the offer and instead asked for his son to be inducted into the cabinet and later nominated as an MLC. Nitish Kumar, however, did not agree. Jitan Ram Manjhi is the only MLA from HAM. Now, with the LJP chief’s brother inducted into the cabinet, Manjhi is reportedly sulking about Kumar’s decision.
Nitish Kumar, whose rivalry with friend-turned-foe Upendra Kushwaha is well known, also reportedly rejected BJP’s request to induct one of RLSP’s two MLAs. Sources said this was because the two RLSP legislators belonged to two openly rival factions of the small party that has only has MPs. Sources said Kushwaha was also unhappy about Kumar’s decision.
The new cabinet has only one Muslim minister – Khurshid Alam from JD(U) – and one woman minister - Manju Verma of JD(U). JD(U) retained all the ministers who were part of the erstwhile grand alliance government. Of BJP ministers, only Sushil Kumar Modi, Nand Kishore Yadav and Prem Kumar were ministers during the previous JD(U)-BJP government between 2005 and 2013.
The last time the BJP had a coalition government with Kumar’s party — in 2010 — it had 11 ministers. BJP then had 91 elected representatives, compared to 53 now.
With the Bihar Assembly having 243 members, a government can have a maximum of 37 ministers as per the constitutional provisions. JD(U) and BJP have agreed to have 19 and 13 ministers from their respective parties apart from one each of the other NDA allies, said sources.
The new cabinet had Nitish Kumar’s writ large on it. Nitish Kumar retained the home, vigilance and general administration departments while Sushil Modi retained the portfolios he had during his previous ministership – finance and commercial taxes.