Bihar cabinet expansion: 31 ministers inducted, more than half from RJD


Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) Chief Jitan Ram Manjhi and RJD leader Rabri Devi during the swearing-in ceremony of the Bihar Cabinet Expansion of Grand Alliance government. Photo: ANI

Patna: Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expanded his new cabinet on Tuesday by inducting 31 new ministers, including a huge contingent of 16 from key ally RJD, taking care to give due representation to all sections of society, including minorities.

Of the council of ministers, 11 are from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U), two from Congress and one from ex-CM Jitan Ram Manjhi's HAM, besides an Independent.

The swearing in took place at Raj Bhavan, where Governor Phagu Chauhan administered oath of office to the inductees in batches of five and six. Kumar and Deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, who had been sworn in earlier on August 10, were among those present.

RJD president Lalu Prasad's elder son Tej Pratap Yadav enjoyed a pride of place, as the second-term MLA took oath in the first batch, alongside party veteran Alok Mehta, JD(U) heavyweights Vijay Kumar Chaudhary and Bijendra Yadav and Mohd Afaque Alam of the Congress.

The mercurial MLA was, however, uncharacteristically solemn and no sooner than the CM arrived at the Rajendra Mandapam hall before the swearing in commenced, Yadav got up to greet the latter by touching his feet.

Kumar blessed the maverick leader, keeping whom on a tight leash could be a challenge, before proceeding to have a chat with Tejashwi, the younger but more mature sibling on whose shoulders lies the burden of keeping family feud and unruly party cadres under check.

The new cabinet, predictably, has a sizeable number of Yadavs and Muslims, though members of other sections of the society also find a place.

Three of the ministers are women – Sheela Kumari and Leshi Singh (both JDU) and Anita Devi (RJD).

There are altogether seven Yadavs from RJD, including the two sons of Lalu Prasad, besides Bijendra Yadav of the JD(U).

Others from the populous caste group in Bihar include Lalit Yadav, Surendra Prasad, Chandrashekhar, Ramanand Yadav and Jitendra Kumar Rai.

There are five Muslims – Zama Khan (JDU), Mohd Afaque Alam (Congress) and Mohd Shamim, Mohd Israil Mansuri and Shahnawaz Alam (all RJD).

Comparatively, the last Nitish Kumar cabinet in alliance with BJP, had as Muslim representation Senior BJP leader Syed Shahnawaz Hussain besides Zama Khan.

The sizeable number of Muslims and Yadavs, apparently, led BJP national spokesman Sanjay Mayukh to allege “this is not a cabinet headed by Nitish Kumar. It bears the imprint of Tejashwi Yadav. We will expose the inherent contradictions of this opportunistic alliance”.

Although a pro-OBC bias was expected in the alliance dominated by RJD and JD(U), both owing their rise to the Mandal agitation, members of the upper castes also find a place.

While Vijay Kumar Chaudhary and RJD debutant Kartikeya Singh are Bhumihars, Leshi Singh (JDU), Sumit Kumar Singh (Indpendent) and Sudhakar Singh (RJD) are Rajputs. Sanjay Kumar Jha of JD(U) is represntative of the Brahmins.

Five Dalits – Ashok Choudhary (JDU), Kumar Sarvajeet and Surendra Ram (RJD), Murari Gautam (Congress) and Santosh Kumar Suman (HAM) have been included in the new cabinet.

Others who took oath include the CM's close aide Shravan Kumar, who belongs to the same Kurmi caste and Nalanda district, Madan Sahni and Jayant Raj.

BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal came out with a Facebook post ruing “a decline in the representation of extremely backward classes, from six to only three”.

There was a buzz that Awadh Bihari Chaudhary, a veteran RJD leader who was initially expected to be inducted in the ministry, may now be considered for the post of the Speaker.

“I have received no such intimation. But if I am assigned the responsibility, I will discharge my duties to the best of my abilities,” said Chaudhary, who was present at the Raj Bhavan.

The ‘Mahagathbandhan', comprising the RJD, JD(U), Congress and the Left, has moved a no-confidence motion against Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha, who belongs to the BJP.

All the ministers from the JD(U), besides HAM's Santosh Kumar Suman and Indpendent Sumit Kumar Singh, were members in the previous government.

The Left is supporting the government from outside.

PTI

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