statesman news service
PATNA, 20 JUNE: A day after chief minister Nitish Kumar won the trust vote in the Assembly, discontent has started brewing within both the JD(U) and the BJP over the “share of pie”. While those backing the chief minister during the confidence motion yesterday are reportedly seeking key ministerial berths in lieu of support, a bunch of former BJP ministers have raised a banner of revolt over the way their “junior” colleague was named the Leader of the Opposition.
The Bihar chief minister is in a dilemma over demands for “creamy” ministerial berths made by some senior party leaders and four Independents who came to the rescue of the chief minister. According to a report, supporters of a senior party leader and agriculture minister Mr Narendra Singh are pressuring the chief minister to appoint him as deputy chief minister, keeping in view his seniority and political experience. The post was earlier held by BJP leader Sushil Modi, who also held the portfolio of finance.
Mr Kumar is unable to find a leader who could take up additional charge of finance, as it was with Modi. Although a few names have been discussed for the post, the chief minister is not said to be satisfied with them. Sources close to the government said Mr Kumar is likely to keep the portfolio of finance with him until he finds a “suitable” man for the job. He is already burdened with 11 additional departments that the BJP ministers held.
Mr Kumar is also facing pressure from four Independents and ‘others’ who supported his government during the confidence vote. This group too is reportedly vying for key departments in lieu of their support.
While some are seeking home, others are demanding finance. There are yet others who want road construction, health, tourism or urban development.
The CM is expected to expand his Cabinet soon as the Independents are getting impatient to ride beacon-fitted cars. He is said to have sought an appointment with the Governor, where he is expected to discuss the issue of Cabinet expansion.
As per rule, there can be a maximum of 36 ministers in Bihar Cabinet. At present, there are only 18 ministers, including the chief minister. Thus, there is a scope of 18 more ministers being accommodated in the Cabinet; if done wisely, this could tackle dissidence in the party. JD(U) insiders said the vacancies could be filled in two phases. While 11 vacancies caused by the dismissal of the BJP will be filled in the first phase, the second phase of the Cabinet expansion may take place shortly before next year&’s Lok Sabha elections.
Dissidence has also gripped the BJP over the Leader of the Opposition. A group of former ministers such as Mr Prem Kumar, Mr Chandra Mohan Rai and Mr Giriraj Singh boycotted a meeting of the party yesterday convened to chalk out the party strategy for the confidence motion.
There are 11 vacancies following the dismissal of 11 BJP ministers