Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi on Monday expanded his Cabinet, taking the tally of ministers to 31. The permissible strength of the Cabinet being 36, five berths have been kept vacant to “accommodate” more leaders. Already, there are voices of dissent with JD(U) spokesperson and MLC Neeraj Kumar, Barh MLA Gyanendra Singh Gyanu and Gauraboram MLA Izhar Ahmed criticising the party for “rewarding” RJD rebels Samrat Choudhary, R R Raman and Javed Iqbal Ansari while ignoring “committed party workers”.
The most important inclusion is that of former Munger MP and Nitish Kumar aide Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh, who lost the recent Lok Sabha election to LJP’s Vina Devi. Singh, who had fallen out with Nitish before the 2010 Assembly polls, came back to the JD(U) fold and was rewarded with a ministerial post. He is being seen as number two in the Cabinet and has been given the Road Construction portfolio.
Manjhi has kept 11 departments, including Home, Vigilance and Energy with himself. His Cabinet, which seems to bear a Nitish stamp, has also sought to maintain social and regional balances with inclusion of two women — Bima Bharati (EBC leader from Purnea) and Ranju Geeta (OBC leader from Nalanda) — and two Muslim ministers — Javed Iqbal Ansari (Banka) and Naushad Alam (Thakurganj, Kishanganj).
The government faced some embarrassing moments when Bharati was unable to read her complete oath.
Samrat Choudhary, Kushwaha leader from Tarapur (Munger), and son of former deputy Assembly speaker Shakuni Choudhary who had engineered the RJD split just before the LS polls, has been rewarded with a Cabinet berth.
Three Koeri-Kurmi leaders — Shravan Kumar (Nalanda), Ramdhani Singh (Kargahar, Rohtas) and Manoj Kumar Singh (Kudni, Muzaffarpur) — have been inducted along with three upper caste leaders — Bhumihars Lalan Singh and Mahachandra Prasad Singh and Rajput leader Jay Kumar Singh (Dinara, Rohtas). Vinod Prasad Yadav (Shergahti, Gaya) has also made it to the list to give more representation to Manjhi’s home district, Gaya.
Ramdhani Singh is health minister. P K Shahi has been shifted from HRD to Environment and Forest. Information and Public Relations minister Brishen Patel has been shifted to HRD. Bijendra Yadav, who was heading Energy department, is the new Finance minister.