Despite the Janata Dal United (JDU) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) jointly running the government in Bihar, relations between them don’t seem too cosy.
This is reflecting in the expansion of the cabinet. Sources said that both the parties want the upper hand in cabinet expansion leading to a rift between them.
The aggressive intent of the BJP was already clear after the party claimed two deputy chief ministers and the post of the assembly Speaker. Now, the party is wanting a higher number of portfolios in the cabinet.
The BJP is reportedly eyeing the home and education ministries portfolios as well. The home ministry is currently under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the education ministry is in the charge of one of Kumar’s closest aides, Ashok Chaudhery. He is holding the additional charge of the education ministry after the resignation of tainted leader Mewa Lal Chaudhery.
BJP leaders like state party president Sanjay Jaiswal, MLA Sajay Sarogi and Sasaram MP Chedi Paswan are vocal about the deteriorating law and order situation in Bihar. They are especially eyeing the home ministry portfolio. Paswan on Thursday wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah to take action against the Rohtas Superintendent of Police for being unable to check the rising crime graph in the district.
The Bihar legislative assembly has 243 seats and therefore the chief minister can have a 36-member cabinet including himself. At present, there are 14 ministers in the cabinet and another 22 ministers can be inducted.
Among the 14 ministers, the BJP has 7 including two deputy CMs, the JDU has 5 ministers and one minister each belongs to the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and the Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP). The BJP has 74 seats, the JDU 43, the VIP 4 and HAM 4 seats in the assembly.
Currently the number of portfolios for each party has been decided in the ratio of one minister for every four MLAs. The BJP wants to get the portfolios in the same ratio apart from the home and education ministries, while the JDU wants the share-out in the ratio of 50:50. This seems to be a sticking point for both the parties.
Nitish Kumar during a public meeting in Patna apparently put the ball in the court of the BJP by saying: “We have not got a proposal from the BJP. Hence, the cabinet expansion is still to happen.”
When the question was put to BJP Bihar chief Sanjay Jaiswal, he said: “Our party is having its own style of working. We will soon decide about the expansion of the cabinet and inform all our alliance partners in the NDA.”
Sources said that the cabinet expansion is likely to take place in the second half of January next year.