Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday expanded his Cabinet by inducting eight new ministers, all from the Janata Dal (United), The Hindu reported. Kumar offered only one position to ally Bharatiya Janata Party, but the saffron party has decided not to take it yet.
Earlier this week, the JD(U) had opted to stay out of the new Union Cabinet after the BJP-led government allotted the party only one ministerial berth. Kumar had then said that his party was not upset and very much with the National Democratic Alliance.
After the state Cabinet expansion on Sunday, Kumar’s deputy Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP tweeted: “Nitish Kumar has offered BJP to fill the vacant ministerial seat. BJP decided to fill it in future.”
Nitish Kumar reiterated that he is not unhappy with the Bharatiya Janata Party. He told ANI: “Vacancies from JD(U) quota in the Cabinet were empty so JD(U) leaders were inducted. There is no issue with BJP, everything is fine.”
Governor Lalji Tandon administered the oath to all the eight ministers at the Raj Bhavan in Patna. The newly inducted ministers are Sanjay Jha, Neeraj Kumar, Shyam Rajak, Bima Bharti, Ashok Chaudhury, Narendra Narayan Yadav, Laxmeshwar Rai and Ram Sevak Singh.
Sanjay Jha is a long-time close confidante of Kumar, who was recently elected as Member of Legislative Council. He had reportedly wanted to contest the Lok Sabha election from Darbhanga but the seat had gone to the alliance partner BJP under the seat-sharing pact. Neeraj Kumar is also a Member of the Legislative Council.
Three ministerial positions held by JD(U) leaders had fallen vacant after they were elected Lok Sabha MPs in the elections. Another post had been vacant since last year since Manju Verma resigned following her implication is the Muzaffarpur shelter home case.
On May 23, when the Lok Sabha election results were announced, Nitish Kumar had hinted at joining the new government. He had said that it was “a given” that allies will be part of the NDA government. In the Lok Sabha elections, the JD(U) won 16 seats and the BJP secured 17 in Bihar. The parties’ other ally, the Lok Janshakti Party, had won six seats.
However, during the formation of the Union Cabinet, the JD(U) was offered only one portfolio, with which the party was reportedly unhappy. Nitish Kumar said on May 31 that allies should have been given proportional representation in the Union Cabinet, but also claimed that his party had never asked for any berth.