Nitish Kumar may expand cabinet after first session of assembly
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar could expand his cabinet after the five-day inaugural session of the new legislative assembly ends on Friday, people familiar with the development said.
Ahead of the first session of the 17th Bihar assembly which begins Monday, sources said the cabinet expansion was imperative because the 14-member cabinet is overburdened with many of the senior ministers having been allotted five departments. Recently, the building construction minister Ashok Choudhary was given additional charge of education department after resignation of Mewalal Choudhary following protests by opposition RJD over alleged corruption charges.
Other senior ministers like deputy chief minister Tarkishore Prasad, Vijay Kumar Chaudhary and Bijendra Prasad Yadav are handling five to six departments while some ministers have been allotted two to three departments.
“The cabinet expansion could take place after the house ends. The expansion could be any day after November 27 or in the first week of December,” said a senior leader in the NDA, on condition of anonymity. He said the expansion was necessary as ministers sworn in the cabinet after government formation on November 16 are overburdened with several departments.
There are total 14 ministers in the cabinet now including the Chief Minister following the resignation of Mewalal Choudhary of the JD(U). Five ministers from the JD(U), seven from the BJP and one each from the VIP and HAM(S), smaller allies in the NDA in Bihar, were sworn in on November 16.
Sources said 17-18 new ministers could be inducted in case of likely expansion of cabinet with BJP getting higher share of 10 ministers while the JD(U) could get seven new faces while the VIP and HAM(S) may not get ministerial berths in the expansion and could be accommodated later.
Insiders in the NDA said a broad-based consensus has been reached among allies in the NDA on allotment of ministerial berths based on the formula of allotting two ministerial berths against seven seats to each party. That way, BJP with 74 hopes to get maximum 20 ministerial berths while JD(U) with 43 seats has a stake for 12 berths.
“The BJP and JD(U) would have maximum 18 and 12 ministers from their own quota. There will be complete balance with expansion to have imprint of the unity among the JD(U) and BJP and other smaller allies,” said a source in the NDA.
Sources said the NDA could restrict the total cabinet size to 32 or 33 as against the permissible limit of having 36 ministers in the 243-member state assembly.
State president of the BJP Sanjay Jaiswal could not be reached for comments while many senior JD(U) leaders remained tightlipped about the possible cabinet expansion.
“If there is a cabinet expansion, it would not be very, very surprising. Besides, it is obvious BJP will have higher share of ministers than the JD(U) because of a larger number of MLAs,” said a senior JD(U) leader who did not wish to be named.