Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's cabinet expansion today turned out to be a message for ally BJP, which had been out to grab the dominant position in the alliance after its big win in last year's assembly elections. Of the 17 ministers inducted today, the BJP got nine berths, the Chief Minister's Janata Dal United, eight. But the BJP's numerical advantage -- in the assembly and the government -- was lost as all the important departments, like Home, Personnel, Education, Rural Development, Rural Works, Water Resources, remained with the JD(U).
The BJP now has 16 ministers with 22 portfolios among them. The JDU has 13 ministers with 21 portfolios. A berth each has gone to Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha and the Vikassheel Insaan Party.
Former Union Minster Shahnawaz Hussain -- the biggest name in the new batch of 17 ministers -- was given the industry portfolio in a state that hardly has any industry. Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi was given the disaster management portfolio.
The Bihar cabinet, which can have up to 36 members, had only 13, apart from the Chief Minister.
The expansion had been hanging since last year's assembly polls in the state as the BJP was having trouble finalizing the names of its candidates.
The BJP, which was the junior partner in the state, had taken the role of the big brother after its spectacular results in the election following the solo contest by Chirag Paswan's Lok Janashakti Party.
The LJP had cut into the votes of Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United, pushing it down from 71 seats to 43. It also gave the upper hand to the BJP, which won 74 seats. The JDU had squarely blamed the LJP for its poor performance.
The final list was drawn up after the state BJP chief Sanjay Jaiswal and deputy chief ministers Tarakishore Prasad and Renu Devi met Mr Kumar on Sunday.
Shahnawaz Hussain – who was elected to the Bihar legislative council last month -- was the first to be administered the oath of office by Governor Phagu Chauhan at a ceremony held at the Raj Bhavan this afternoon for the much-awaited cabinet expansion.
Others who too oath today included JD(U) leaders Sanjay Kumar Jha, Shravan Kumar, Lesi Singh and Madan Sahni and Pramod Kumar of the BJP. All of them had held ministerial positions in the previous government.