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Lalu’s influence writ large on CM Nitish’s cabinet

india Updated: Nov 21, 2015 11:57 IST
Ashok Mishra
Ashok Mishra
Hindustan Times
Nitish Kumar

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, left, hugs Nitish Kumar during the oath-taking ceremony of the latter as the Bihar chief minister in Patna.(PTI Photo)

The Nitish Kumar government, which took oath on Friday amid much fanfare, bore testimony to the impact of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, reflecting a new caste equation given overwhelmingly to the social justice class.

The 29-member new council of ministers headed by Nitish Kumar has altogether seven Yadav MLAs followed by three each from the Kurmi and Koeri (Kushwaha) communities with five Scheduled Castes (SCs) ministers and four Muslims in the cabinet.

The extremely backward castes (EBCs), which unexpectedly voted for the Grand Alliance, got three berths while Rajputs got two and Bhumihars and Brahmins one each.

The Banias (Vaishyas) and Kayasthas, considered the backbone of the NDA in Bihar were not given any representation in the new council of ministers.

Ruling party sources, however, said that some castes, which have been left out, would be accommodated later as there was still scope to induct seven more ministers as per the constitutional provisions.

The Yadavs have maximum representation as they along with Muslims, solidly voted for the Grand Alliance irrespective of caste affiliations of the candidates of the RJD, JD(U) and the Congress. The unity of Yadavs and Muslims, assiduously forged by RJD chief Lalu Prasad, played a crucial role in mobilising the EBCs and Dalits in favour of GA, especially after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s goof-up on reservation policy.

The caste configuration of the new cabinet reflects a shift in the social strategy of Kumar, who had given representation to almost all castes in his council of ministers in 2010 with two berths each to Kurmis-Koeries and three to Yadavs, then. The Rajputs, Bhumihars and SCs had four berths each in the last ministry, while Brahmins and Vaishyas had three each and Muslims two.

The radical shift in the caste mosaic this time is mainly because the social construct of the new Bihar assembly has changed this time with an increase in the number of Yadavs, Backward Castes and women legislators.

Despite stress of the Kumar government on women, only two have been made ministers this time. The number of woman MLAs has gone down to 28 against 34 in 2010 and 26 in October 2005.

Going by regional representation, Mithilanchal region benefited the most with seven berths in the new council of ministers, followed by four each from the Vaishali-Muzaffarpur and Kosi regions.

Prominent faces from Mithilanchal include Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Abdul Bari Siddiqqui, Abdul Jalil Mastan and Madan Mohan Jha.

The Vaishali district has been represented by four ministers, including Lalu Prasad’s two sons — Tejashwi Prasad Yadav from Raghopur and Tej Pratap Yadav from Mahua. Tejashwi, sworn in second, has automatically become the deputy chief minister.

Nalanda, Gaya and Jehanabad districts of central Bihar besides Rohtas and Buxar districts of south-west Bihar have been given one berth each.

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