Twenty-three out of 32 ministers in the new Bihar Cabinet have declared criminal cases against themselves, a report by the non-profit organisation Association for Democratic Reforms said on Tuesday.
Bihar’s Cabinet expansion took place nearly a week after Nitish Kumar took oath as the chief minister for the eighth time on August 10. Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav was sworn in as his deputy.
Thirty-one MLAs – 16 of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, 11 from the Janata Dal (United), two from the Congress, one MLA of the Jitin Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha and Independent MLA Sumit Kumar Singh – took oath as ministers on Tuesday morning.
The Association for Democratic Reforms and the Bihar Election Watch have analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 32 out of 33 ministers, including the chief minister. These affidavits were submitted during the 2020 Bihar State Assembly elections.
According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, Kumar and Yadav also have criminal cases registered against them.
Seventeen ministers (53%) have serious criminal cases against themselves, out of whom 11 are from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, three from Janata Dal (United), and one each from the Congress, the Hindustani Awam Morcha and an Independent.
Twenty-seven ministers have assets of over Rs 1 crore. On average, a Cabinet minister has assets worth Rs 5.82 crore.
Rashtriya Janata Dal minister Samir Kumar Mahaseth has the highest declared assets worth Rs 24.45 crore, while the Congress’ Murari Prasad Gautam has the lowest assets worth Rs 17.66 lakh, the report said.
Only three ministers (9%) in the Cabinet are women, the report added.
On August 9, Kumar resigned as the chief minister of Bihar after snapping ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. Hours later, he staked a claim to form a new government after being elected as the leader of the Grand Alliance of nine parties.
The Kumar-led Bihar government will face a floor test in the state Assembly on August 24.
The Janata Dal (United) is the third major ally to snap ties with the BJP in the last three years. Earlier, the Shiromani Akali Dal severed its ties over the three farm laws, and in 2019, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra joined hands with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.
Relations between the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) had soured recently because of disagreements over a host of matters such as a proposed population control law, caste census, demand for special category status for Bihar and the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme.
In June, thousands of protestors burnt train coaches, damaged public property and ransacked offices in Bihar during an agitation against the Agnipath scheme, which provides for short-term recruitment into the armed forces. The JD(U) had urged the Centre to reconsider the scheme.
On August 7, the JD(U) said it will not be a part of the expansion of Narendra Modi’s Union Cabinet. Kumar had also skipped the NITI Aayog meet chaired by the prime minister on the same day.
This is the second time that Kumar has severed ties with the BJP.
In 2013, he left the NDA after Modi was announced as the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, in 2017, he left the Grand Alliance to rejoin the NDA.