Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar allocated portfolios to himself and the newly-elected 14 members of his cabinet on Tuesday, a day after the oath-taking ceremony.
The JD(U) has kept all important portfolios it had in the previous dispensation, despite the BJP emerging as the bigger partner in the NDA in recently-concluded Bihar Assembly elections.
The CM retained the key portfolios of the Home, the General Administration, Cabinet Secretariat and Vigilance. Two other key portfolios, Energy and Water Resources have been allocated to two veteran JD(U) leaders, Bijendra Prasad Yadav and Vijay Kumar Choudhary, respectively.
The change from the last Nitish Kumar term, however, is that his close associates Shravan Kumar and Sanjay Jha could not make it to the first list of the ministers.
Nitish, 69, took oath as the Bihar chief minister for the fourth straight term on November 16, days after NDA won the cliffhanger Bihar assembly elections by bagging 125 seats in the 243-member house.
BJP has emerged as a senior partner in the alliance with 74 seats while the JD (U) won 43. In 2015 assembly polls, the BJP had won 53 and the JD (U) had 71 seats.
The new cabinet includes six JD(U) leaders including Nitish Kumar and seven leaders, including the two deputy CMs, from the BJP. The two allies, VIP and HAM, have got one ministerial berth each.
Deputy CM Tarkishore Prasad of the BJP will handle finance, commercial tax, environment, forest and information technology, all departments handled by BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, the deputy chief minister under Nitish Kumar previous term.
BJP leader Renu Devi, the second deputy chief minister has been given Industry, Panchayati Raj and OBC and EBC Welfare departments in the new government.
Mangal Pandey of the BJP has retained Health department with an additional charge of Art, Culture and Youth Affairs and Road Construction and Amarendra Pratap Singh, another BJP leader, has been allocated Agriculture department.
JD(U) MLA Mewalal Chaudhary is the new education minister of Bihar while Sheela Kumar, another JD-U minister will handle tourism. Mewalal’s induction in the cabinet came under attack from the Opposition over an alleged corruption case against him.
Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) leader Santosh Kumar Suman, son of former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi, is the new minister for minor water resources and the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) founder Mukesh Sahani will be in charge of animal and fisheries resources.
Analysts said that from the portfolio allocation it can be concluded that CM Nitish Kumar has not, for now, conceded any major departments to the BJP-senior alliance partner. Or, they said, maybe the BJP is not putting any kind of pressure on Nitish Kumar.
For the BJP, the social engineering is on display in the choice of ministers. Of its seven ministers so far, only three are upper caste, two from the OBC, one is a Dalit and the other an EBC. This, analysts said, was as part of BJP’s strategy of being considered as a party of all castes and not just of the upper castes. The BJP had seven upper-caste representatives in the then previous government.
The portfolio allocation is expected to change when the cabinet expansion takes place as only 15 members, including the chief minister, have been sworn in yet. The maximum number of ministers that the cabinet can have is 36 which is 15 percent of the total number of seats in the Bihar Assembly – 243. In all, the BJP can have a maximum of 21 and JD(U) 14 ministers in the cabinet.
In the previous Nitish Kumar government, the JD(U) had 17 and the BJP 12 ministers including the deputy chief minister.