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Friday 5 June 2020

Nitish Kumar’s ‘revenge’: No BJP minister in Cabinet expansion

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had communicated to the BJP, if they wanted, they could propose one name from the party for one seat of their quota in the NDA

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Patna: The Bihar Cabinet of Nitish Kumar expanded on Sunday. In the morning at 11.30 at the Raj Bhavan, Governor Lalji Tandon administered the oaths of office and secrecy to eight new ministers. In this Cabinet expansion, eight legislators and legislative councillors are from the JD(U) while there is scope to add three more. As per the agreement in the NDA, these should go to the BJP, but they did not.

In the 30 May swearing-in ceremony for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers, no MP from the JD(U) had been included. Sources said the party wanted more ministerial berths than what the BJP was ready to spare for them.

The MLCs included in today’s Bihar Cabinet expansion are Ashok Chaudhary, Sanjay Jha and Neeraj Kumar while the MLAs who became ministers are of Phulwari Sharif MLA Shyam Rajak, Alamnagar MLA Narendra Narayan Yadav, Rupauli MLA Bima Bharti, Hathua MLA Ramsevak Singh, Lokha MLA Lakshmeshwar Rai.

Sanjay Jha, Neeraj Kumar, Laxmeshwar Rai and Ramsevak Singh have become ministers for the first time whereas Ashok Chaudhary, Narendra Narayan Yadav, Bima Bharti and Shyam Rajak have some ministerial experience.

Five of the eight ministers are JDU leaders. Sanjay Jha and Shyam Rajak the party’s general secretaries, Ramsevak Singh Kushwaha is the national secretary; Neeraj Kumar is a spokesperson of the party while Laxmeshwar Rai is the president of the party’s EBC cell.

It’s Nitish Kumar’s act of social engineering where he has chosen two representatives each of the upper castes, Dalits, OBCs and EBCs.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had met Governor Lalji Tandon on Saturday afternoon to discuss the proposal for expanding the Cabinet. The visit lasted about half an hour. After his return, the MLAs to be inducted were called from the CM House on Saturday night.

The LJP and BJP quotas still lie vacant in Bihar just as the JD(U) ministers have so far not been included in the Narendra Modi Cabinet.

Maths of Nitish Kumar’s Cabinet

When the JD(U) reunited with the NDA in 2017, the quota for the three parties in the State Cabinet was decided. According to their respective strengths in the Legislative Assembly, the JD(U) has 20, BJP 14 and LJP has one minister. At present, there are 25 members in the Bihar council of ministers including the chief minister. This number can go up to 28, but after winning the Lok Sabha election, three ministers Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh, Dinesh Chandra Yadav and Pashupati Kumar Paras resigned.

On 29 July 2017, when the JDU, BJP and LJP government were formed, 29 legislators including the chief minister were sworn in. Fifteen of the JD(U) 15 including the chief minister, 13 of the BJP including Sushil Modi and Pashupati Kumar Paras of the LJP were included. One of these, Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma resigned from her post after the Muzaffarpur trial in May 2018 and the strength of the council of ministers reduced to 28.

According to the rules, the total number of ministers can be up to 15% of the total number of MLAs (243), which comes to 36 including the CM while, at present, Bihar has 25 ministers including the CM. There is, therefore, 11 vacancies.

BJP was offered 1 ministerial berth; it didn’t respond

According to some senior leaders of the JD(U), Chief Minister Kumar communicated to the senior BJP leaders on Saturday that if they wanted, they could propose the name of any one leader of the party for one seat of their quota. The BJP leaders passed on the information to the central leadership. Until late last night, the BJP central leadership had not responded.

There is no possibility of the BJP joining in Nitish Kumar’s  Cabinet at the moment. There being only one seat on offer, the party is not taking any decision on this issue. Curiously, keeping one seat vacant in the Cabinet has become a tradition in Bihar.

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