All Eyes on Cabinet Expansion in Bihar

Bihar’s mercurial Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is all set to take oath for the eighth time on Wednesday and will now head a coalition of seven parties, backed by an Independent. While Kumar, who split with his ally BJP for the second time in eight years, is yet to announce his new cabinet, sources have told News18 that the Congress is set to get the Speaker’s post, while RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav will return as the deputy chief minister.

The portfolios allotted to BJP ministers will go to Lalu Prasad’s RJD, while the Janata Dal United (JDU)’s quote will stay with the party. From the Congress, Madan Mohan Jha, Ajeet Sharma and Shakil Ahmed Khan may be a part of the cabinet.

The Panchayati Raj and Transport Department ministers are likely to change though General Administration Department and Home will remain with Nitish Kumar.

The Congress has 19 MLAs in the 243-member Bihar Assembly while the JD(U) has 43, RJD 79, CPI(ML) 12, and CPI and CPI(M) each have two legislators. The BJP has 77 MLAs in Bihar while the Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) has four. The House has one Independent MLA while one seat is vacant.

Top Congress leadership in Delhi, however, was silent on the developments in Bihar and talks over the new government formation. Earlier, the Congress said it will be a part of the non-BJP alliance in Bihar to help strengthen secular forces. The party said that like in Maharashtra where it helped stitch together the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government by supporting the Shiv Sena which was ideologically opposite, it will align with Kumar who has been with them in the past.

Nitish Kumar is understood to have told JD(U) legislators and MPs, at a meeting he convened at his official residence, that he had been driven against the wall by the BJP which tried to weaken his party, first by propping up Chirag Paswan’s rebellion and later through its former national president RCP Singh.

Relations between the BJP and the JD(U) had been worsening in the wake of disagreements over a host of issues including caste census, population control and the ‘Agnipath’ defence recruitment scheme.

The BJP, however, accused the Bihar chief minister of “insulting and betraying” people’s mandate while claiming that his “prime ministerial ambition” is the reason behind the JD(U)’s decision to walk out of the NDA and join hands with the RJD-led opposition in the state.

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