statesman news service
PATNA, 28 JUNE: After taking things to the brink and beyond with erstwhile ally BJP, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who snapped ties with his party’s partner of 17 years over the elevation of Mr Narendra Modi, is spending sleepless nights, so to speak, looking for ways to deal with the burgeoning aspirations of his party colleague.
Even ten days after winning the trust vote in the state Assembly, Mr Kumar has failed to expand his Cabinet as nearly everyone is vying to become a minister in the JD-U government.
The result is that he carries a burden of as many as 18 ministries on his shoulders with governance being the worst victims
The biggest problem the chief minister faces is from his own colleagues who stood with him during the time of crisis when he broke away from Lalu Prasad&’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and formed Samata Party in the early 90&’s.
This group also came to his rescue when Mr Kumar faced near political wilderness when the Samata Party fared badly in the 1995 assembly elections, winning just seven seats out of a total 324 seats in undivided Bihar, and then firmly remained with his side even though everyone else ditched him.
This group now wants a share in the pie now that Mr Kumar has been able to form his own government in Bihar.
The JD-U&’s chief whip and his fellow caste man, Mr Shrawan Kumar, is one of them.
At presently, the JD-U has 146 members in both Houses of the state legislature and the majority are nursing ministerial ambitions, leaving the chief minister perplexed.
Pressure is also said to be coming from a new group which got close to Mr Kumar after he became the chief minister of Bihar in 2005.
Many belonging to this group come from politically powerful castes and want to be accommodated in the cabinet to counter the BJP&’s strong support base among upper caste Bhumihar and Brahmin communities.
This group is now seeking the post of the deputy chief minister which was earlier held by the BJP&’s Sushil Kumar Modi.
No less perplexing is the issue of what is to be done with the four Independents who have been demanding plum ministries as payment for the support they extended to the chief minister during his trust vote on 19 June. One of them, Mr Som Prakash, is reported to be hell-bent on having the key home department, now held by the chief minister himself. His other three colleagues want to settle for departments like finance, cooperative, health, road or mines.
The problem does not end here. Mr Kumar was happy to have the support of four Congress members in the state Assembly but now some of them want to join the ministry, going against the party line which is to extend support from outside.
One of them is said to be a legislator from Kishanganj district whose marriage was recently attended by the chief minister. Analysts say there are strong chances of the Congress splitting over the issue since the party has just four members in the Assembly with the majority wanting to join the Nitish ministry.
Under the existing rules, a maximum of 36 ministers can be inducted in the Cabinet while there are only 18 ministers right now.
Thus, there is a scope for a maximum of 18 more ministers getting accommodated in his cabinet, which is not enough to fulfil everyone&’s wishes.
The very first victim of delay in Cabinet expansion has been the governance as the chief minister has not been able to do justice to all the departments he holds now.
Prior to the BJP-JD(U) split, Mr Kumar had been holding five departments which included general administration, cabinet coordination, home, vigilance and election, in addition to being the chief minister of Bihar. Post-split, the burden of 13 more departments held by the 11 erstwhile BJP ministers has also fallen on his head.
The immediate fallout of this delay in cabinet expansion is very sharp deterioration on law and order front as was evident from the killing of seven villagers in police firing in West Champaran, murders of builders in Patna, and killing of three members of a family in Buxur district over the last few days.
The BJP has been more vocal in its attacks on the chief minister, saying the present government is “completely paralysed”. “The administrative machinery has become completely paralysed now as the government is focussing more on arranging for its majority,” BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi said.