JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar will take oath on Friday as Bihar’s 35th chief minister hoping to keep coalition partners happy by striking a numerical balance in his new government.
The grand alliance cabinet may accommodate 28 ministers and both sons of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad - Tej Pratap and Tejashwi - will be sworn in as ministers on Friday.
The cabinet is likely to accommodate 12 ministers each from the RJD and the Janata Dal(United) and four from the Congress. Based on the constitutional stipulation that the cabinet cannot accommodate members beyond 15% of the 243-seat Bihar assembly, no more than 36 can be accommodated.
Sources said the rest of the ministerial berths are being left in view of possible dissidence by legislators who have been accommodated or left out. As per early indications, the virtual number 2 in the last Nitish Kumar ministry, Vijay Kumar Choudhary, who was also the water resources minister, could be elected as the speaker of the assembly. The Congress was interested in this post.
Among the names which are being touted for ministership in Patna, the RJD could accommodate Tej Pratap and Tejashwi - their swearing in taking precedence over others who would join the cabinet from the party’s quota. With sources contending that Tejaswi could be sworn-in after Kumar takes oath could be an indication that he could get the post of the deputy chief minister, though this could not be spelt out immediately.
Also likely to be included are former RJD state president Abdul Bari Siddique, Abdul Gafoor, Alok Mehta, Vijay Kumar Yadav, Chandrika Rai, Shivchandra Ram, Chandrasekhar, Anita Devi and Ram Vichar Rai.
The JD(U) could accommodate senior most member and finance minister in the outgoing government, Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Shravan Kumar, Maheshwar Hazari, Krishna Nandan Verma, Manju Verma, Khurshid Firoz Alam, Santosh Kumar Nirala, Krishna Nandan, Lallan Singh, Madan Sahni, Jai Kumar Singh and Kapildeo Kamat.
The Bihar Pradesh Congress Committeee chief and MLC, Ashok Choudhary, Madan Mohan Jha, Jalil Mastan and Awadhesh Singh are among those likely for a berth in the new cabinet.
The swearing-in ceremony will be attended by leaders of various political parties including Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister HD Devegowda, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, his National Conference counterpart Farooq Abdullah and Congress leaders in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad among others.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be able to attend the ceremony due to ‘prior engagements’, however, Union ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Rajiv Pratap Rudy will represent the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government at the swearing-in.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has also confirmed that she would attend the ceremony.