Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today formed his cabinet with 27 ministers — 14 from the JD (U), 12 from the BJP and one from the LJP– a day after winning the trust vote. The ministers were administered the oath of office at a function at the Raj Bhawan here by Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi this evening. Mangal Pandey, who is also BJP in-charge of Himachal Pradesh, was away in Shimla and could not attend the ceremony. However, he was sworn in later at the Raj Bhavan after he arrived by a chartered flight from Chandigarh. Only Kumar and Sushil Modi were sworn-in as the chief minister and the deputy chief minister on July 27 and the ministry was expanded a day after the new JD(U)-NDA government won the confidence vote in the Bihar Assembly.
Besides Kumar and Sushil Modi, Union minister and LJP chief Ramvilas Paswan and Speaker of Bihar Assembly Vijay Kumar Choudhary attended the swearing-in ceremony. No one from RJD or the Congress, who are now in the opposition, was seen at the ceremony. Also absent was former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who is the lone MLA of his Hindustani Awam Morcha, a BJP ally. He is away in Delhi where he has reportedly gone to meet President Ram Nath Kovind and BJP leaders.
In the 243-member Bihar Assembly, a maximum of 37 persons can be made ministers as per constitutional provisions. So eight berths are still vacant. Vijendra Prasad Yadav of the JD(U) was the first to take oath, followed by BJP’s Prem Kumar, who was Leader of Opposition during the Grand Alliance government. Then came the turn of JD(U)’s Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lallan and BJP’s N K Yadav in the pecking order.
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Manju Verma of Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) was the lone woman minister to be sworn in. She was minister for women empowerment in the previous Grand Alliance ministry. In the NDA quota, while 12 ministers are from the BJP, one is from its ally – the LJP. Pashupati Kumar Paras, who is the brother of LJP president and Union minister Ramvilas Paswan was made a minister.
Paras is not a member of either house of Bihar. The LJP has two MLAs in the current assembly and they voted in favour of the confidence vote yesterday. The RLSP, another NDA ally, also went unrepresented. Reports in a section of the media suggested the ministerial berth for Union minister Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP, which has two MLAs and voted for Kumar, was at the last minute given to the LJP.
When mediapersons asked Paras about this, he said, “I took oath as a minister on the decision of the party and the direction of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.” However, RLSP ministerial hopeful Sudhanshu Shekhar, who attended the swearing-in, expressed unhappiness over the denial of berth to the party. “Not only me but all the party members are unhappy over the denial of a ministerial seat to the RLSP… Our party leader (Kushwaha) will take a decision on the matter,” he told PTI.
Kumar had on July 26 dumped the earlier Grand Alliance government comprising his JD(U), the RJD and the Congress and joined hands with the BJP to form a new government. He has, however, deftly maintained JD(U)’s supremacy in the cabinet as it has more ministers than other NDA allies. The JD(U) has a strength of 71 in the present house, BJP 53 and other NDA parties 5.
The JD(U) retained all 12 ministers from the Grand Alliance government and inducted two new members- Dinesh Chandra Yadav and Ramesh Rishideo. Induction of Yadav, a close confidant of Sharad Yadav is seen as an attempt to mollify the senior JD(U) leader, who is reportedly unhappy over Kumar’s decision to dump the Grand Alliance and align with the BJP.