The recently-formed Mahagathbandhan government in Bihar carried out its first Cabinet expansion on Monday in which 31 ministers took oath.
The Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) got the lion's share of Cabinet berths, but Chief Minister Nitish Kumar kept the all-important Home Department among others.
Of the 31 ministers, 16 were from RJD, 11 were from Nitish's Janta Dal-United (JD-U), two were from Congress and one was from Hindustani Awam Morch (HAM) and one was an Independent lawmaker.
The Cabinet make-up
The RJD, predictably, has given a significant number of seven berths to Yadavs, including Tej Pratap Yadav, the elder son of party president Lalu Prasad.
The number of Muslims in the new Cabinet is five, up from two in the previous National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) government that fell last week after Nitish severed ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and joined the RJD-led bloc to remain as chief minister. BJP's Shahnawas Hussain and Zama Khan were the Muslim ministers.
This is not surprising that the RJD-JD(U) has focussed on backward groups as both of them owe their rise to Mandal agitation. However, members of the upper castes also found a place in RJD's berths in keeping with the wider social outreach by Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav. Among those from the RJD quota were Kartikeya Singh, a Bhumihar MLC, and Sudhakar Singh, a Rajput whose father Jagadanand Singh is currently the state president.
The JD(U) has retained its ministers from the previous dispensation. The Congress is represented by a Dalit and a Muslim.
The state cabinet can have up to 36 ministers, including the chief minister. The induction of ministers on Tuesday is expected to keep a few berths vacant for future expansion. With Nitish and Tejashwi, the size of the current Cabinet is 33.
Bihar Cabinet portfolios
Predictably, CM Nitish Kumar retained the all-important Home Department. It gives him direct control over the state police.
Besides Home, Nitish also has general administration department, cabinet secretariat, election department and "any other departments not assigned to others", according to an official communication.
Deputy CM Tejashwi has got key portfolios like health, road construction, urban housing and development and rural works. Yadav’s elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav has been given environment, forestry and climate change.
Besides Nitish and Tejashwi, only Vijay Kumar Chaudhary and Bijendra Yadav have got more than one portfolios. Chaudhary has departments of finance, commercial tax and parliamentary affairs and Yadav has departments of power and planning and development.
BJP says it's Tejashwi's Cabinet, not Nitish's
As the large chunk of Cabinet berths are held by Muslims and Yadavs, the BJP alleged it's not Nitish Kumar's Cabinet but Tejashwai Prasad Yadav's.
BJP national spokesman Sanjay Mayukh said, "This is not a cabinet headed by Nitish Kumar. It bears the imprint of Tejashwi Yadav. We will expose the inherent contradictions of this opportunistic alliance."
Bihar BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal came out with a Facebook post ruing “a decline in the representation of extremely backward classes, from six to only three”.
(With inputs from PTI)