JD-U leader Nitish Kumar will take oath on Friday’s as Bihar’s 35th chief minister, hoping to keep coalition partners happy by striking a numerical balance in his new government though he may avoid appointing a deputy for the time being.
Sources in the grand alliance -- the pre-poll coalition of JD-U, RJD and Congress – said despite toying with the idea of appointing a deputy chief minister, Kumar could postpone the move in the absence of consensus among the three parties.
Kumar will take oath for the fifth term at Patna’s iconic Gandhi Maidan in the afternoon in the presence of many political leaders from across the country.
The grand alliance bagged 178 out of the 243 seats in the just-concluded assembly polls, which was billed as a battle between Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had campaigned extensively for the BJP-led NDA.
Former chief minister Lalu Prasad’s RJD pulled off a bigger surprise by emerging as the single-largest party, winning 80 seats while the JD-U 71 and the Congress 27.
According to the sources, top leaders of the JD (U) and Congress have expressed their reservation against having a deputy CM, arguing that it could be construed as Kumar’s lessening grip over governance.
“There is lack of consensus among the partners over the deputy CM’s post though the earlier NDA government led by Nitish Kumar had one. There are possibilities that no such post would be created for the time being,” said a RJD insider.
Despite public posturing to the contrary, the RJD chief is said to have pitched for a deputy CM to rehabilitate his political heir and second son, Tejashwi Yadav, a first-time MLA with no experience in either legislative or administrative business.
The JD-U and Congress leaders also feel that the message should be of a strong Kumar who calls the shots in the government.
The chances of Lalu’s elder daughter Misa Bharti being inducted as a minister also looks remote though the doctor-turned-politician has been aggressive about her ambitions, telling the media that she was “ready to accept any role in the government, if given a chance”.
There were speculations that Bharti, who did not contest the elections after her defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, could be accommodated in the upper house of the bicameral legislature.
Constitutional provisions allows Bihar to have a maximum of 36 ministers including the chief minister while the formula of ‘one minister for every five legislators’ could mean that the RJD will have 16 ministers, JD(U) 14 and Congress five.
Sources in the alliance said that the RJD has also staked claim to some plum portfolios like roads, rural development and urban development and might also insist on putting up its own nominee for the post of Speaker.