Making it obvious who wields more power in Bihar, when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expanded his cabinet today, it was found that the biggest chunk of seats had gone to coalition partner Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) led by Tejashwi Yadav. The new ministers were administered the oath of office by Governor Phagu Chauhan.
Out of a total of 31 ministers inducted into the Bihar cabinet today, the RJD got 16 ministerial berths, followed by the Janata Dal (United), which kept 11. Nitish Kumar kept home while his deputy Tejashwi Yadav got key portfolios like health, road construction, urban development, housing and rural development. Tej Pratap Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav's brother, is Bihar's new environment minister. Of course, the RJD got more ministries because of more MLAs in the coalition.
The JD(U) retained most of its ministers, including Mohd Zama Khan, Jayant Raj, Sheela Kumari, Sunil Kumar, Sanjay Jha, Madan Sahni, Shravan Kumar, Ashok Choudhary, Leshi Singh, Vijay Kumar Chaudhary and Bijendra Yadav.
From RJD, Tej Pratap Yadav, Alok Mehta, Surendra Prasad Yadav and Ramanand Yadav, Kumar Sarvajeet, Lalit Yadav, Samir Kumar Mahaseth, Chandrashekhar, Jitendra Kumar Rai, Anita Devi and Sudhakar Singh, Israel Mansuri, Surendra Ram, Kartikeya Singh, Shahnawaz Alam, Shamim Ahmed took oath.
Nitish Kumar inducted two Bihar Congress MLAs, Afaque Alam and Murari Lal Gautam, into the cabinet while Santosh Suman from Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha became a minister too. The only independent MLA Sumit Kumar Singh took the oath as a cabinet minister.
Given the strength of the state assembly, the Bihar cabinet can have up to 36 ministers, including the chief minister. Some ministerial berths were kept vacant for future cabinet expansion, sources said.
Nitish Kumar had broken away from the NDA, in consultation with INC president Sonia Gandhi, and formed a government with the RJD and other parties earlier this month. The chief minister and Tejashwi Yadav took their oaths on 10 August. Sources said he felt that the BJP was attempting a repeat of the Maharashtra model where the Uddhav Thackeray government was dismantled with the rebellion by senior Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde who is now the chief minister. However, there are differences, as much as similarities, between the Shiv Sena and the JD(U), the most obvious one being Devendra Fadnavis who is a former chief minister and hence a prominent face in Maharashtra whereas there is no personality in Bihar BJP big enough to challenge Nitish Kumar's persona even if a parallel of Eknath Shinde could be found in the JD(U) who could lead a rebellion in the JD(U). The absence of a big local leader of the BJP would render a hypothetical BJP-rebel JD(U) government less credible.
The Mahagathbandhan, as the RJD-JD(U) alliance was named during the 2015 Bihar election, has a combined strength of 163. Its effective strength climbed to 164 after Independent MLA Sumit Kumar Singh extended his support to Nitish Kumar.
The new government is expected to prove its majority in the Bihar assembly on 24 August.