Nitish Cabinet expansion: Balancing caste, BJP bets on new faces, JD(U) sticks to old team

webnexttech | Nitish Cabinet expansion: Balancing caste, BJP bets on new faces, JD(U) sticks to old team

One-and-half months after crossing over to the NDA and taking charge as the Chief Minister of the new Bihar government, Nitish Kumar has undertaken his first Cabinet expansion, with 21 ministers including 12 from the BJP being inducted on Friday. The JD(U) retained its old team with the exception of ex-deputy Speaker Maheshwar Hazari, who was sworn in as a minister in place of Sanjay Kumar Jha, who was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. The BJP, however, sprang some surprises by making six of its legislators ministers for the first time. At the time of Nitish Kumar’s swearing-in on January 28, eight ministers – three from the JD(U), Vijay Kumar Choudhary, Shravan Kumar, Bijendra Prasad Yadav, and three from the BJP, Samrat Choudhary, Vijay Kumar Sinha and Prem Kumar — along with Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) MLC Santosh Kumar Suman and Independent MLA Sumit Kumar Singh had taken oath. The government camp claimed that the Cabinet expansion was delayed because of the Assembly’s Budget session and Nitish’s UK tour. The Nitish Cabinet now has altogether 30 ministers. It could have a maximum of 36 ministers as the Bihar Assembly has a strength of 243 members. While the BJP has 15 ministers, including deputy CMs Samrat Choudhary and Vijay Kumar Sinha, the JD(U) has 13 ministers, including the CM. The constitution of the ministry indicates that both the BJP and the JD(U) have sought to reach out to their respective social bases. While the BJP has six upper caste ministers – two Brahmins, two Rajputs, one Bhumihar, one Kayastha — it also has four EBC, three OBC and two SC ministers. The JD(U) has four OBC and four SC ministers, and two EBC and upper caste ministers each. The party’s Jaman Khan is the only Muslim face in the Cabinet. Both parties looked to keep the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in mind during the Cabinet expansion. Former deputy CM Renu Devi, the BJP’s Bettiah MLA and an EBC Nonia face, was also sworn in as a minister. The six BJP leaders who became ministers for the first time include Kudni MLA Kedar Prasad Gupta, MLC Dilip Jaiswal, former leader of Opposition in the Council Hari Sahani, Harsiddhi MLA Krishnandan Paswan, Bachwada MLA Surendra Mehta and MLC Santosh Kumar Singh. The BJP also inducted its veteran leaders Mangal Pandey, Nitin Nabin, Janak Ram and Neeraj Kumar Singh into the Cabinet. It also made former minister and Jhanjharpur MLA Nitish Mishra a minister. Mishra is the son of former Bihar CM late Jagannath Mishra. The JD(U) went with the same old team. Its ministers included Ashok Choudhary, Ratnesh Sada, Lesi Singh, Sheela Kumari, Jayant Raj, Maheshwar Hazari, Sunil Kumar, Madan Sahani and Jaman Khan.

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