JD(U) LEADER Nitish Kumar was sworn in on Friday as Bihar Chief Minister for a third straight term at Patna’s historic Gandhi Maidan in a ceremony witnessed by opposition leaders from across the country.
Nitish kept the key home portfolio along with public relations and general administration for himself. But the buzz was all about RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav taking the oath immediately after Nitish, being allotted the portfolio of road construction and later designated as deputy chief minister, the youngest ever in the country at 26.
Next in line to take the oath was Lalu’s elder son Tej Pratap who was allotted the health department. Tej Pratap fumbled briefly while taking the oath before regaining his poise with prompting from Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind.
Senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui got the other important portfolio of finance while JD(U) leaders Bijendra Prasad Yadav and Rajiv Ranjan Singh were allotted the energy and water resources department, respectively. Singh was in charge of road construction in the previous Nitish ministry.
Sending a strong message of unity against the BJP, the oath-taking ceremony was witnessed by a range of leaders in Opposition at the Centre, including Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi CM and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, NCP leader Sharad Pawar and former PM HD Deve Gowda. UP CM Akhilesh Yadav, however, did not turn up.
In the Cabinet, RJD and JD(U) got 12 ministerial berths each and Congress four, including the human resources department (education) for state chief Ashok Kumar Choudhary.
The new ministry has 20 first-timers with Nitish retaining only four — Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Rajiv Ranjan Singh, Jay Kumar Singh and Shravan Kumar — from his previous stint, mainly due to political compulsions with the JD(U) placed second at the polls with 71 seats to RJD’s 80.
In the event, Nitish had to drop senior JD(U) ministers such as P K Shahi and Narendra Narayan Yadav. While four Muslims — two from RJD and one each from JD(U) and Congress — became ministers, only two women could find ministerial berths.
In the overall caste calculus, which is crucial in Bihar, the list of 28 ministers has four upper castes, four Muslims, four scheduled castes, 11 OBCs (seven Yadavs, four Kurmi-Koeri) and six EBCs.
RJD nominated six Yadavs in its present quota of 12 ministers — the seventh Yadav is from JD(U) — and did not give a single berth to the upper castes.
Congress gave two of its four ministerial berths to upper-caste leaders M M Jha (Brahmin) and Awadhesh Kumar Singh (Rajput), and one each to Abdul Jalil Mastan and BPCC president Choudhary (Dalit).
Among the individual highlights, the RJD accommodated Vijay Prakash, brother of Lalu’s close aide and Banka MP Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav, in the cabinet.