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Nitish Kumar-led 15-member Ministry Installed in Office in Bihar, Opposition RJD Boycott Ceremony

Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Nov 16: The new NDA ministry headed by the JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar was installed in the office on Monday with Kumar taking oath as the chief minister for the fourth consecutive term and the senior partner BJP getting two deputy chief ministers posts.

Along with Kumar, the two deputy chief ministers, Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi, and 12 ministers including five each from the BJP and JD(U) and one each from the two smaller alliance partners, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), also took oath of office and secrecy. The induction of the speaker of the outgoing House Vijay Kumar Choudhary as a cabinet minister from the JD(U) quota make it clear that the speaker’s post in the new House will go to the BJP. Santosh Kumar Suman, son of Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi, and Mukesh Sahni of Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) were also sworn in.

The BJP’s tallest leader in Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi, who had remained deputy to Nitish Kumar whenever he led the NDA government, did not find a place in the new cabinet. Though there were no official words from the BJP, the party sources said the prime minister Narendra Modi was likely to take him to Delhi and induct in his central cabinet. A reshuffle of the Modi cabinet too was expected soon as several cabinet berths had fallen vacant due to the death or resignations by the ministers belonging to the NDA allies including the recent death of Ram Vilas Paswan who hailed from Bihar. A gubernatorial post for Modi is also not ruled out.

The union home minister Amit Shah and the BJP national president J P Nadda specially flew in to Patna to attend the swearing-in ceremony even though it was kept a restricted affair with very invitations issued in view of the prevailing Corona pandemic. The Rashtriya Janata Dal leading the 110-member main opposition “Mahagathbandhan” boycotted the swearing-in ceremony claiming that the voters in Bihar had rejected Kumar’s leadership.

RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav did not attend the oath-taking ceremony as his party said the election had been rigged. The mandate was “against the NDA”, but has later been changed by a “fraud”. “The RJD boycotts oath-taking ceremony of this puppet government. The mandate is for a change, and against the (ruling) NDA. The people’s verdict has been changed by the rulers order,” the RJD alleged in a tweet.

According to pre-election ministerial berth-sharing agreement based on percentage of seats won, the JD (U), which has 43 MLAs, will get a maximum of 14 ministerial berths, the BJP having won 74 seats will get 20 posts in the cabinet and both HAM (S) and VIP should have one berth each.

After taking oath, Nitish said, “Based on the public’s decision, NDA has once again formed the government in the state. We will work together and serve the people”. On Sushil Modi not returning as his deputy, Kumar said, “It is the decision of the BJP to not field Sushil Modi as the Deputy Chief Minister. They should be asked about this.”

The prime minister Narendra Modi said the NDA family would together work for progress of Bihar. “Congratulations to Nitish Kumar on taking oath as Bihar’s CM. I also congratulate all those who took oath as Ministers in Bihar Government. NDA family will work together for progress of Bihar. I assure all possible support from Centre for the welfare of Bihar,” Modi tweeted.

Congratulating Nitish Kumar on being “nominated” as CM, RJD leader Yadav said, “I hope that instead of his desire for the chair, he will focus on the aspirations of Bihar’s people, and make the NDA’s promises of 19 lakh jobs, providing education opportunities, health and irrigation facilities his priority.”

Earlier in the day, RJD had put out a statement on its twitter handle announcing that they would boycott the ceremony as “the public gave the mandate to change which is against the NDA.” “RJD boycotts the swearing-in ceremony. The mandate for change was against NDA. The mandate has been changed into government order. Consider what the unemployed youths, farmers, contract workers, teachers are going through. People are upset with the fraud committed by NDA. We are people’s representatives and we stand with people,” said RJD, the single largest party of Bihar.

The president of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Chirag Paswan, whose party left the NDA just ahead of the elections owing to “ideological differences” with Kumar, also had a dig at Kumar. He said he hoped Nitish Kumar remained an “NDA” chief minister. “Congratulations to Nitish Kumar on becoming the chief minister again. I hope the government completes its term and you continue to remain an NDA chief minister,” Paswan tweeted. “Once again I congratulate you on becoming chief minister and the BJP on making you one,” he said.