The much-awaited first Cabinet expansion of chief minister Nitish Kumar in Bihar today saw many new and surprising faces getting place there, causing heartburns among the old guards and triggering revolt in the BJP.
The Cabinet expansion took place well 84 days after Kumar took oath as the chief minster on 16 November after the NDA won elections with wafer-thin majority.
While the BJP got rid of the deadwoods who remained the usual faces in the Cabinet in the past 15 years, the JDU has given preference to both experience and talents.
The surprise inclusion of faces in the Nitish Cabinet from the BJP side include Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, former union minister, Niraj Kumar Bablu, brother of late film actor Sushant Singh Rajput who committed suicide last year and former Lok Sabha Member Janak Ram.
What was surprising is that prominent old and trusted leaders such as Nand Kishore Yadav and Prem Kumar were not given the place in the Cabinet although they were overactive on social media these days. In their places, fresh faces like Subhash Singh, Narayan Prasad and Alok Ranjan Jha were given the ministerial berths.
However, the BJP move triggered revolt in the party with a senior party leader Gyanendra Singh Gyanu openly questioning the decision of the party. Alleging the BJP has gone to the “Yadavs and Baniyas (businessmen)”, Gyanu said the upper caste legislators were not given proper representation in the Cabinet.
“The eligibilities of the legislators have not been looked into. People with criminal antecedents have been made the ministers while persons with clean image have been shown the door. This party is bound to face serious consequences of this blunder,” Gyanu said and claimed he had the support of around 15 legislators.
He alleged the party has also not tried to make a fine balance of caste, region and experience in the cabinet.
“About 50 percent of the BJP legislators are form upper caste but none from them were made the deputy chief minister. The party has gone into the hands of Yadav and Baniyas,” he alleged. Gyanu further charged the state party leadership with keeping the Prime Minister and Home Minister in dark and including all the wrong leaders into the Cabinet.
The JD-U, on the other hand, maintained its old and experienced leaders in the Cabinet such as Shrawan Kumar, Madan Sahni and Sanjay Jha. What, however, was surprising was the inclusion of former DGP Sunil Kumar in Nitish cabinet. Two others leaders, such as Sumit Kumar Singh and Jaman Khan who lent their support to the Nitish Kumar government were also given the place in the Nitish cabinet. Singh had won elections as an Independent candidate whereas Khan was elected on BSP ticket but joined the JD-U.
The chief minister’s move to include Khan in his Cabinet, however, has drawn criticism from the Opposition who alleges Khan faces several criminal cases against him such as attempt to murder and rioting. While becoming the chief minister in 2005, Kumar himself had set a standard that none facing criminal or corruption charges will be included in his cabinet. It was under this practice that Jitan Ram Manjhi, Ramanand Prasad Singh, Ramadhar Singh and Mewalal Chaudhary had to resign as ministers earlier.