Nitish Kumar expands his cabinet, inducts 8 JD(U) ministers
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday inducted eight new ministers into his cabinet. All the inductees are from his Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), which leads Bihar’s ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that also includes the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
The JD(U) filled eight of the nine slots that were vacant from its quota in the coalition government with the cabinet expansion on Sunday. The JD(U), BJP and the LJP can induct one minister each to complete their quotas.
Kumar underlined the expansion has nothing to with the JD(U)’s last moment decision last week against having a “symbolic participation” in the Union Cabinet when it was offered one berth in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government.
“There were a 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 assembly session is on the cards and some key portfolios were vacant,’’ said Kumar.
He said all these portfolios were with the JD(U). “It was important to fill the vacancies so that the ministers can prepare before the House session and add pace to their work. [Another] expansion can happen anytime,” said Kumar. He added the BJP and the LJP, too, have offered to fill their vacancies.
Bihar now has 33 ministers. The state can have a maximum of 36 ministers, including the chief minister, as the strength of a ministry cannot exceed 15% of the strength of the state assembly.
Governor Lalji Tandon administered the oath of office to Narendra Narayan Yadav, Ashok Choudhary, Shyam Razak, Bima Bharti, Laxmeshwar Rai, Ram Sevak Singh, Neeraj Kumar, and Sanjay Jha.
Kumar’s deputy, Sushil Modi, who was among those present at the oath ceremony, echoed the chief minister. “Nitish Kumar offered the BJP to fill its vacancy, but we will do it at a later stage. The NDA is one and everything is alright. We will consider filling our quota in the future, as we already have 13 ministers. We have just one to fill.”
Former AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies director DM Diwakar said the differences over JD(U)’s representation in the Union Cabinet had come to fore and its various symptoms will gradually show in the run-up to 2020 polls in Bihar.
“The BJP has got what it wanted – a comfortable majority at the Centre and a landslide in Bihar. JD(U) also benefited. It was a mutual benefit in the election. It will be premature to say if it could lead to realignment or attempt to go alone by either the BJP or JD(U). But in politics, nothing can be ruled out,” he said, referring to NDA’s sweep in Lok Sabha polls in Bihar.
The NDA won 39 out of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha seats. The JD(U) won 16, BJP 17 and LJP six
The cabinet expansion on Sunday was the first since JD(U) walked out of the Congress–Rashtriya Janata Dal alliance in Bihar in 2017 to be part of the NDA.
The eight new ministers include two each from upper and backward castes and two Dalits. Bima Bharti is now the sole woman in the cabinet. There had been no woman in Kumar’s government after social welfare minister Manju Verma resigned last year.
Two fresh vacancies were created when JD(U)’s Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh and Dinesh Chandra Yadav resigned from Kumar’s cabinet following their election to the Lok Sabha.
Lalan Singh was the water resources minister, Yadav held the disaster management portfolio. The two ministries are important particularly during the monsoon season for Bihar, which is vulnerable to floods.