14-member Nitish Kumar cabinet assigned portfolios. (Image source: Nitish Kumar Facebook page)

New Nitish team a significant departure from the past

When Nitish Kumar took oath on November 24, 2005 most of the ministers inducted in his cabinet, especially of the BJP, had little experience as the saffron party was sharing power for the first time. Yet it had several prominent faces such as Sushil Kumar Modi and Nand Kishore Yadav–incidentally, both of them are from Patna and had been active from quite early age. The former in particular was a national level leader of the BJP.     

But the new cabinet of Nitish Kumar is a significant departure from the past as no one from the state capital has been a made minister. Not only that, most of the new BJP ministers, including the two deputy CMs, are lesser known figures outside the organizational structure of the BJP.

As seven from the BJP, four from the Janata Dal (United), and one each from Hindustani Awam Morcha and Vikassheel Insan Party got place in the ministry it is clear that the saffron party has managed to carve out much larger share than Nitish Kumar’s party.    

It seems that the BJP would walk out with more important portfolios such as finance, home, road construction, health etc. In the previous Nitish cabinet too they had control over most of the important departments. Yet Nitish was holding the home portfolio, besides the speaker used to be from Janata Dal (United).

This is for the first time that BJP’s senior leader and former state NDA convenor Nand Kishore Yadav is likely to be the speaker of the state Assembly.

Apart from Sushil Modi it is the absence of eight-time Gaya MLA and senior minister in the outgoing cabinet, Prem Kumar, which has come as a surprise. Ever since November 14 evening till 15 afternoon he, along with Kameshwar Chaupal, the first Kar Sewak, were in the race for the post of deputy chief minister.  But suddenly the names of both vanished.

Now that the BJP has got installed Tarkishore Prasad, a four-time MLA from Katihar in Seemanchal as one of the deputy chief ministers—though he had never served as minister in the past—the message is clear.

The induction of Reenu Devi also suggests that the BJP is trying to expand its base to the Extremely Backward Castes as she comes from Nonia caste. Besides, she is also a woman.

The BJP will certainly have much larger clout in the new cabinet obviously because it has emerged as a stronger party in the Assembly. But the big question is at this hour of crisis in Bihar, like elsewhere in the country, who will head the finance and health portfolios. The absence of Sushil Modi may certainly be missed.

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