As the reports of internal chaos within the NDA partners increases, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has said on Saturday that no discussion took place on the expansion of the newly formed cabinet in the state. He had earlier said that the expansion will take place in due course only after consultation with the BJP. After meeting the top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders at his official residence 1 Anne Marg in Patna, Kumar said that the matter did not come up for discussion.
"As of now, there are 14 members in the state Cabinet. The issue (of Cabinet expansion) was not taken up for discussion at the meeting (with BJP leaders) yesterday (January 7)," said Kumar. As per the rule, a maximum of 36 ministers, including the chief minister, can be appointed to the 243-member Bihar Assembly.
"At present we are busy with moving forward on our blueprint for the next five years. A cabinet meeting is scheduled later in the day for the purpose. When the BJP proposes expansion of the cabinet, we will think over it. So far no proposal has been received", Kumar had said earlier.
However, speculations are rife that the cabinet expansion was deferred as the JD(U) was insistent on having a number of berths equal to that of the BJP which at present has seven ministers, as against only four from the chief minister's party. Two of the BJP ministers Tar Kishor Prasad and Renu Devi have been designated as Deputy CM. This more so after JDU leaders from Arunachal joined the saffron party in what came as a major jolt to Nitish Kumar. Moreover, HAM's Manjhi also said on Saturday that the party wants one for cabinet berth for itself in Bihar.
While the BJP is said to be of the view that it deserved a greater share of the pie on account of its superior tally in the assembly, the JD(U) holds that it suffered in the assembly elections because of Chirag Paswan's politics of brinkmanship whom the saffron party failed to rein in despite its clout. In the assembly polls, the BJP returned with a tally of 74 while the JD(U) won only 43 seats.
The 2020 Bihar Assembly election witnessed a voter turnout of 57.05 per cent as against that of 56.66 per cent in the 2015 polls. The polls turned out to be a nail-biting contest with NDA emerging victorious in 125 seats as against that of 110 seats won by the Mahagatbandhan. BJP, RJD, JD(U), Congress won 74, 75, 43, and 19 seats respectively. BJP winning more seats than JD(U) for the first time in a Bihar Assembly election led to the speculation that JD(U)'s clout in the alliance will reduce. LJP is believed to have damaged JD(U)'s prospects in 32 seats despite bagging a solitary seat.
While Kumar again took oath as the CM of Bihar, BJP has two Deputy CMs in 4-time MLAs Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi. Kumar's recent revelation that BJP pressurised him to become the Chief Minister set the rumour mills abuzz. While acknowledging that the ex-JD(U) chief didn't want to become the CM, BJP MP Sushil Kumar Modi opined that Kumar was convinced to take up the post as he was the face of the coalition in the polls.