In Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s cabinet expansion, no space for ally BJP
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday inducted eight new ministers in his cabinet, all from the JD(U). Allies BJP and LJP were left out of the cabinet expansion.
After the cabinet expansion, Nitish Kumar said the BJP was offered a berth but it was not too keen. He tried to play down speculations of a rift between the BJP and the JD(U). “There was large number of vacancies in the JD-U quota. The quota of allies with departments is decided at the very outset. At present only JD-U’s quota has been filled as the house session is on the cards and some key portfolios were vacant. All these portfolios were with JD-U,” he said.
Bihar deputy CM and senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi seconded Kumar and said the party was indeed offered a berth. “The BJP decided to fill it in future,” Sushil Modi tweeted.
The Bihar cabinet expansion came just two days after Nitish Kumar opted out of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government after disagreement over berths. The JD(U) was offered a single berth in the Union cabinet but Kumar refused it saying that representation should be proportional to the strength of the parties in Parliament.
The JD(U) chief was present for the oath-taking ceremony of PM Modi and his ministers on forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday.
The JD(U) rules Bihar in alliance with the BJP. The Nitish Kumar-led party had won 16 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state, while the BJP won 17. The JD(U) was not part of the Modi government in the last tenure and had walked out of the Congress –Rashtriya Janata Dal alliance in Bihar in 2017 to be part of the NDA.
After the present expansion, three berths have remained vacant – one each of JD-U, BJP and the LJP. JD-U had nine vacancies and it has now filled eight of them. Bihar can have a maximum of 36 ministers, including the CM, as per the House strength. As per the provision, the cabinet strength in no case can exceed 15% of the strength of the Legislative Assembly.
In the new expansion, first since Kumar switched over from grand alliance to NDA, caste calculations have been kept in mind with two berths each going to upper castes, backwards, EBCs and Dalits. The caste configuration is apparently aimed at getting the equation right for 2020 assembly polls. Bima Bharti is the sole woman in the Nitish cabinet. After the resignation of former social welfare minister Manju Verma last year, there was no woman in the cabinet.
Governor Lalji Tandon administered the oath of office and secrecy to the ministers at Raj Bhavan. This is the second time in two years when Nitish Kumar expanded his cabinet. On July 29, 2017, he has inducted 27 ministers from all three NDA constituents, the JD(U), the BJP and the LJP.