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2-min read

Balancing Caste Equations & JD(U) Quota: Is There More to Expansion of Bihar Cabinet Minus the BJP?

The induction of JD(U) leader Ashok Choudhary, who had recently said the mindset of his party and BJP did not match, further added to the speculation.

Pankaj Kumar | News18

Updated:June 3, 2019, 7:32 AM IST
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Election Results in Bihar, An Acid Test for Nitish Kumar as BJP Looks to Consolidate
File photo of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expanded his cabinet on Sunday and inducted eight new legislators from the Janata Dal-United (JD-U).

With a year left for the Assembly election, Kumar has ensured that he plays the social equation card right, even as non-inclusion of a single leader from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has raised many eyebrows.

It seems it was Kumar’s way of paying the BJP back for the treatment meted out to the JD(U) in the cabinet formation of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.

The MLAs who took oath as minsters were Shyam Rajak, Ashok Choudhary, Narendra Narayan Yadav, Sanjay Jha, Ram Sevak Singh Kushwaha, Neeraj Kumar, Lakshmeshwar Rai and Bima Bharti.

While Ashok Choudhary and Neeraj Kumar belong to the Scheduled Caste, Narendra Narayan Yadav, Ramsevak Singh Kushwaha, Lakshmeshwar Rai and Bima Bharti belong to backward and extreme backward castes.

Besides, Sanjay Jha is a Brahmin and Neeraj Kumar a Bhumihar — both upper castes.

While talking to reporters after the cabinet expansion, the chief minister said there were vacancies from the JD(U) quota in the cabinet, hence, only MLAs from the party were inducted, adding that there was no issue with the BJP and everything within the alliance was fine.

However, political pundits differed and wondered if fissures with the NDA have already started getting deeper.

Kumar had explicitly expressed his displeasure with the offer of a single berth in the Modi cabinet and by not joining the Union government, his party had given enough indication on May 30 that Bihar is likely to witness new political drama in the coming days.

After returning from Modi and his new team’s swearing-in ceremony in Delhi, Kumar had said the JD(U) would not join the NDA government in future either as symbolic representation was not acceptable to it.

But he assured of supporting the NDA government from outside at the Centre and said the JD(U) and BJP would run the government successfully in Bihar.

Outside support to the NDA at the Centre would keep the scope of demanding special status for Bihar open to Kumar.

Also, he has been opposed to many aspects of the BJP’s ideology, like the proposal to scrap Article 370. Hence, being outside the government will help the Bihar CM save his ‘secular’ face and launch an attack on the BJP on certain issues.

The induction of JD(U) leader Ashok Choudhary, who had recently said the mindset of his party and BJP did not match, further added to the speculations.

Earlier, he was a minister when Kumar had formed the government with the Congress and RJD after defeating the NDA in 2015.

Besides, the statements made by several Congress heavyweights, including Sadanand Singh, Shakeel Ahmad and Shyam Sunder Singh Dheeraj, regarding the losses the Congress suffered due to its alliance with the RJD in the Lok Sabha election are being looked at as an indication of a possible political alignment in Bihar.

However, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi in his tweet said Kumar had offered the BJP a ministerial berth, but the saffron party decided to hold it for future.

Kumar had switched his alliance in favour of the BJP in 2017 and formed the government with the help of the BJP and Lok Janshakti Party, led by Ram Vilas Paswan.

Barring himself, the CM can accommodate 35 ministers. One ministerial berth is vacant from the quota of the BJP and LJP.

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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