Bihar CM avoids Cabinet expansion

Bihar CM avoids Cabinet expansion

Post-split, Nitish Kumar keeps all 13 additional responsibilities with him

Bihar CM avoids Cabinet expansion

It’s been almost a fortnight since the JD-U split with its former ruling partner in Bihar, the BJP. But there is still no sign of any Cabinet expansion, even though Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had recommended to the Governor to sack all the 11 ministers from the BJP quota, including former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi.

Post-split, Kumar has kept all 13 additional responsibilities with him. This include ministries like finance, health, road construction, forests & environment, commercial taxes, urban development, PHED, tourism, labour, cooperatives, art & culture, animal husbandry and mines & geology.

Modi, earlier, held two additional portfolios, commercial taxes and forests & environment, besides finance, thereby giving the BJP 13 ministries.

Despite pressure from his colleagues within the JD-U, as well as the four independent legislators who voted in his favour during the confidence motion, Kumar seems to be in no hurry to expand his Cabinet.

The prime reason for the deferment is that the expansion may fuel dissidence than contain it. Sources close to Kumar argue that at least 146 legislators (including MLAs and MLCs) are eyeing the 13 ministerial berths.

“With too many claimants, the Cabinet expansion exercise may fan rebellion,” apprehended one of his associates.

The other reason is that Kumar is not keen on handing over plum portfolios like finance, health and road construction to people who are either inexperienced or deficient in integrity and efficiency.

Even top JD-U leaders concede that there cannot be a substitute to Modi, who not only handled the finance ministry in Bihar for nearly eight years in an exemplary way, but also became the head of the panel of state finance ministries looking into the GST. No wonder, Modi has now turned his ire on Kumar.

“We understand that you do not trust the BJP. But you should trust your own party leaders and entrust them with new responsibilities before governance becomes a casualty due to overload of work on you,” Modi said.

Despite the Opposition jibe and pressure from his peers, Kumar is finding it hard to get proper substitutes to the sacked BJP ministers. So, the latest alibi is: “The Governor is out of town for a fortnight and the Assembly session will be held from July 26 to August 2.”

“Whether one likes it or not, but any Cabinet expansion will have to wait at least till the first week of August,” sources said.

Prior to split: Nitish was in charge of five ministries: Home, General Administration, Vigilance, Election, Cabinet Co-ordination.

Post-split: He has additional load of 13 more ministries: Finance, Health, Road Construction, Forests & Environment, Commercial Taxes, Urban Development, PHED, Tourism, Labour, Cooperatives, Art & Culture, Animal Husbandry,  Mines & Geology