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Friday, February 26, 2021

Bihar: Minister berth for Shahnawaz as Nitish Kumar expands Cabinet

Last month, Hussain was elected to the Bihar legislative council. This was Hussain’s first attempt in electoral politics after he unsuccessfully contested the Bhagalpur seat in the 2014 general elections.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna |
Updated: February 10, 2021 2:58:40 am
Syed Shahnawaz Hussain takes oath as minister. (Source: Twitter)

THE MUCH-AWAITED Cabinet expansion in Bihar took place on Tuesday with nine legislators from the BJP and seven from the JD(U) along with an Independent taking oath as ministers in the Nitish Kumar government. As expected, BJP national spokesperson and former Union minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, who last month got elected to the Legislative Council, was among those who took oath.

Hussain, who was the first to be administered oath of office by Governor Phagu Chauhan, got the Industries portfolio.

With this round of expansion, which comes more than two months after Nitish was sworn in as chief minister along with 14 ministers, the Bihar Cabinet now has 32 ministers – four less than the maximum 36 it can accommodate.

The BJP, which won more number of seats than the JD(U) in the recent Assembly elections, appears to have slightly asserted its position of being a senior partner in the NDA alliance with 16 ministers, who hold 22 portfolios. The JD(U) now has 13 ministers with 21 portfolios. Hindustani Awam Morcha (S) and Vikasshil Insaan Party (VIP) have one minister each since the formation of the government. Both the BJP and JD(U) appear to have catered to their core constituency in the selection of the ministers. While the JD(U) has struck a balance of OBC, EBC, SCs and upper castes, the BJP has also got a mix of upper castes, OBCs and SCs.

Besides Hussain, who took oath in Urdu, the new BJP ministers are Pramod Kumar, Niraj Singh, Subhash Singh, Nitin Navin, Alok Ranjan Jha, Narayan Prasad, Samrat Choudhary and Janak Ram, the former Gopalganj MP.

Explained

Win-win situation for both allies

After a series of posturing and counter-posturing between the two major allies, the JD(U) appears to have bargained well with the BJP despite having 43 MLAs against the senior partner's 74. Not only did it get seven new berths, it also managed to bag some key portfolios, making it an evenly balanced Cabinet for both allies. The expansion also works for the BJP as it succeeded in pushing through most of the names it wanted as ministers, despite initial reservations from the JD(U).

While Pramod Kumar is the only person in the BJP list who was a minister in the previous government, Bankipur MLA Nitin Navin is considered a leading name in the party’s young generation of leaders. Samrat Choudhary, an OBC Kushwaha leader, is son of former minister and once prominent RJD face Shakuni Choudhary.

Among the JD(U) ministers are Sanjay Kumar Jha, Shravan Kunar and Lesi Singh, who were also ministers in the previous government. New faces include first-time Amarpur MLA Jayant Raj and former IPS officer Sunil Kumar, who is the new Prohibition and Excise Minister. A former DG-MD of Bihar Police Building Construction Corporation, Sunil Kumar is the first former IPS officer to become a minister during Nitish’s tenure. Other ministers include Madan Sahni and Jama Khan, who won as a BSP nominee and recently joined the JD(U).

Sumit Kumar Singh, son of former minister Narendra Singh, is also a minister. Singh is supporting the JD(U).

Sanjay Kumar Jha got the portfolios of Water Resources and Information and Public Relations, while Lesi Singh got Food and Consumer Protection. Nitin Navin got the important portfolio of Road Construction while Jama Khan was made the Minority Welfare Minister.

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