Nitish Kumar takes oath for a fourth straight term as Bihar Chief Minister. Among 14 ministers who followed were the BJP's Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi -- his two new deputies. The event was attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda. The NDA won the state election last week with a wafer-thin majority and got 125 of Bihar's 243 assembly seats, three above the halfway mark. Kumar's Janata Dal-United, however, delivered a dismal performance, winning 43 seats compared to the unprecedented 74 seats of the BJP, which has now become the big brother in the alliance.
Nitish Kumar and his ministers were administered the oath of office at Raj Bhavan by Governor Phagu Chauhan, a day after he staked claim to form the new government. The 69-year-old has had a continuous run since November 2005. There was a short break in 2014-15 when the post was occupied by Jitan Ram Manjhi.
Vijendra Yadav, Vijay Choudhary, Ashok Choudhary, Mewalal Choudhary, and Sheela Mandal from Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United and BJP leaders Mangal Pandey and Rampreet Paswan are among the 14 ministers inducted in the new cabinet. Santosh Manjhi of the Hindustani Awam Morcha or the HAM, and Mukesh Mallah of the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) are on the list too.
After the swearing-in, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Congratulations to @NitishKumar Ji on taking oath as Bihar’s CM. I also congratulate all those who took oath as Ministers in the Bihar Government. The NDA family will work together for the progress of Bihar. I assure all possible support from the Centre for the welfare of Bihar”.
Nitish Kumar was formally named the leader of the state’s ruling alliance at a meeting of the NDA MLAs on Sunday. The meeting was also attended by senior BJP leader and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the party’s state in-charge Bhupendra Yadav and election in-charge Devendra Fadnavis.
At the meeting, Nitish Kumar had proposed to turn over the top post to the BJP, but the party decided to stick to the pre-election deal that Kumar retain the post, the BJP spokesperson said.
In a first in the state, the BJP, however, insisted on having two deputies for Kumar. Two deputies are usually a hallmark of BJP-ruled states. In the backdrop of anti-incumbency against Kumar and the opposition allegations of the government’s mishandling of many issues, the BJP said it was meant to keep the emphasis on governance and take the state forward.
The selection of a woman deputy Chief Minister — Bettiah MLA Renu Devi –is seen as a signal for the woman’s mandate, which has been crucial for the BJP in almost every victory.
Sushil Kumar Modi — who was Nitish Kumar’s deputy in the last term and the tallest BJP leader in the state — is likely to have a Central assignment soon. Sources said he is likely to be given a berth in the Prime Minister Narenrdra Modi’s ministry. “The BJP and the Sangh Parivar gave me so much in the political life of 40 years. I will discharge the responsibility that will be given to me. No one can take away the post of the party worker,” Sushil Modi tweeted on Sunday.
“Congratulations to Nitish Kumar Ji for becoming the Chief Minister again. I hope the government will complete its tenure and you will continue to be the Chief Minister of NDA,” tweeted Chirag Paswan. The Lok Janashakti Party leader who rebelled against Kumar’s leadership and contested solo is seen as a key reason for Kumar’s Jud-U’s poor performance.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal and its chief Tejashwi Yadav boycotted the oath ceremony. “Best wishes to respected Nitish Kumar ji for being ‘nominated’ as Chief Minister. I hope instead of pursuing his ambitions, he will fulfill the aspirations of the public and will fulfill NDA’s promise of 19 lakh jobs, and will make positive issues like employment, health, income generation, irrigation his priority,” the 31-year-old tweeted.
Shortly after Nitish Kumar was sworn in as Chief Minister of Bihar for an unprecedented sixth time, the LJP’s Chirag Paswan tweeted to offer his congratulations.
Hidden in the tweets, though, was a swipe at the JDU boss – a line about the BJP “making you Chief Minister” – to remind him that his party had performed well below par in the election, and that he had retained the top post despite effectively handing control of the alliance to the BJP.
“Made by four lakh Biharis, I am sending the vision document (the LJP’s election manifesto – “Bihar First, Bihari First”) to you… whatever work you can complete from it, do it. Congratulations once again on becoming Chief Minister and (to) the BJP for making you Chief Minister,” he added.
The win was a reversal of fortunes – in 2015 the JDU had 71 and the BJP 53 – and left Nitish Kumar’s hopes in the BJP’s hands.
The BJP had stressed that Kumar would remain in the top post if the NDA was re-elected. However, the margins triggered speculation he might be dropped, particularly with talk of a tacit deal between the BJP and Mr Paswan’s LJP to reduce Nitish Kumar’s vote share and influence.
After taking oath as chief minister, Nitish Kumar said he is missing his trusted colleague Sushil Kumar Modi in the new cabinet.
Sushil Modi, who has been Deputy Chief Minister in Nitish Kumar’s cabinets several times, hasn’t been included in the cabinet this time.
“We have a combination of old and new faces in the cabinet and we will work towards a better future for Bihar,” Kumar said.
Asked whether he was missing Sushil Kumar Modi this time, Kumar replied in the affirmative.
The new faces in Kumar’s cabinet in 2020 are Jivesh Kumar, Ram Surat Kumar, Sheela Kumari, Santosh Kumar Suman and Mukesh Sahani.
Former Maharastra CM Devendra Fadnavis said: “For the BJP, it’s a generational change to promote new faces in the party. BJP has internal democracy and it’s reflected through such decisions. BJP gives opportunity to every leader. With this, the eventual goal is to strengthen party.”
He further said: “Sushil Kumar is an asset for the BJP. He served for party over 40 years and party will use his experience at right place.”
The NDA has included two women ministers Renu Devi and Sheela Kumari in the cabinet. Women are considered as silent voters for NDA and it has been mentioned PM Narendra Modi himself.
“Nitish Kumar is like my elder brother. On the occasion of Bhai Dooj, I have got a great opportunity to work with him again. I will work in the interest of women as well as all other persons sitting in the last line. The eventual goal for me is to work on the lines of Aatmanirbhar Bihar,” Renu Devi said.
Jivesh Kumar, a new face in the cabinet said: “The party has given me opportunity to serve as minister, I will work in the interest of Bihar.”