Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar took oath as Bihar chief minister on Friday, along with 28 ministers. Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad’s two sons -- Tejaswi and Tej Pratap -- were also sworn-in with Tejaswi getting the deputy CM portfolio.
Tejaswi, 26, was sworn-in immediately after Nitish and will be looking after building and road construction ministry as well.
Lalu Yadav's elder son Tej Pratap, who was the third person to be sworn-in, has been allocated health portfolio while Nitish has kept home, information and public relations and general administration ministries with himself.
Besides Nitish, 12 members each from RJD and JD-U and four from Congress, the third partner of the Grand Alliance, were administered oath as ministers by Governor Ram Nath Kovind.
Senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui has been made finance minister and senior JD-U leader Vijayander Yadav is given energy portfolio. Another JD-U leader Lalal Singh, a confidante of Nitish, got water resources development department.
Congress state president Ashok Choudhary is given education ministry.
Nitish took oath as the chief minister for the fifth time. Portfolios of the ministers are likely to be allocated soon.
Before the ceremony, Nitish was seen greeting Lalu Prasad, Union minister Venkaiah Naidu and Bihar Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushil Modi.
The ceremony was attended by Lalu Prasad, his wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi, their two sons and seven daughters along with sons-in-law, who sat in the VVIP area.
A galaxy of leaders including Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and a number of Congress chief ministers were present at the ceremony.
However, the Congress vice president was late by over an hour and missed the swearing-in of the Bihar chief minister. Gandhi tweeted that his ‘flight delayed by more than an hour due to air traffic control & related issues (sic)’.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Communist Party of India-Marxist’s Sitaram Yechury and Communist Party of India’s D Raja also attended the event.
Allies of the BJP Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal too were represented at Nitish’s swearing-in by, respectively, Maharashtra ministers Ram Das Kadam and Subhash Desai and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal.
The function virtually served as a stage for showcasing a united picture of anti-BJP parties. While the presence of so many prominent leaders of various anti-BJP parties may not result in the formation of an alliance immediately, it could give a psychological boost to the opposition against the National Democratic Alliance ahead of the crucial winter session of Parliament starting later this month.
Former JD-U MP Maheshwar Hazari, a cousin of BJP ally Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, was also sworn-in as a minister. He had defeated the LJP chief’s nephew Prince Raj from Kalyanpur assembly seat. In the Lok Sabha elections earlier, he had defeated Paswan’s brother Ram Chandra Paswan.
The RJD had won 80 seats in the Bihar polls followed by the JD-U 71 and Congress 27 totalling 178 in the 243-member Legislative assembly.
The RJD MLAs to took oath were Tejaswi and Tej Pratap Yadav, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, Alok Kumar Mehta, Chandrika Rai, Ram Vichar Rai, Shiv Chandra Ram, Abdul Gafoor, Chandrasekhar, Munneshwar Chaudhary, Anita Devi and Vijay Prakash.
From JD-U, the leaders sworn in were Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh, Shrawan Kumar, Jay Kumar Singh, Krishnandan Prasad Varma, Maheshwar Hazari, Shailesh Kumar, Manju Varma, Santosh Kumar Nirala, Khursheed alias Firoz Ahmad, Madan Sahni and Kapildeo Kamat apart from Nitish Kumar.
Congress is represented in the Cabinet by Ashok Choudhary, Awdesh Kumar Singh, Abdul Jalil Mastan and Madan Mohan Jha.
Two women, Manju Varma and Anita Devi, respectively, from JD-U and RJD, were included in the new Cabinet.
Dominance of RJD is visible in the new Cabinet, considering that it took the number 2, 3 and 4 positions.
A total of 29 ministers, including Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, took oath. There are still seven vacancies in the Cabinet, which would likely be used in the future to accommodate any disgruntled leaders from the three parties.
According to the constitutional provision, a maximum of 15 per cent of the total strength of a House can hold office as ministers. Thus, Bihar, whose Assembly has 243 seats, can have a maximum of 36 ministers, including the chief minister.
Senior Grand Alliance leaders said the coalition government had arrived at a formula of having one minister for every five MLAs. According to this formula, RJD's share is 16, JD-U's is 14 and Congress has five ministers, besides the chief minister.
RJD won 80 seats while JD-U and Congress's tallies were 71 and 27, respectively, out of a total of 178 seats won by the alliance in the 243-member House.
JD-U has eight new faces in the ministry with Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Lallan Singh, Shrawan Kumar and Jay Kumar Singh being the only members of the party who were part of the outgoing Cabinet.
Many prominent faces of the previous ministries, like Shyam Rajak, Narendra Narayan Yadav, Leshi Singh and Ranju Geeta, could not find a berth in the Cabinet this time.
Meanwhile, Congress state president Ashok Choudhary could not take oath when his name was called as he had gone to receive Rahul Gandhi at the airport. He took oath at the end after Gandhi arrived at the venue.
The ceremony saw a goof-up by Lalu Prasad's son Tej Pratap Yadav, Shiv Chandra Ram and Anita Devi as they were taking oath.
Tej Pratap misread the word 'apekshit' (desired) as 'upekshit' (deprived) and was asked by the Governor to repeat the word correctly.
Before the ceremony began, Tejaswi and Tej Pratap were seen touching Nitish's feet to seek his blessings.
At the end of the programme, Lalu Prasad and Sharad Yadav joined the new ministers and Kumar for a group photo.
Union Minister of State Ramkripal Yadav, a former RJD leader, wished Nitish and blessed the two sons of Lalu Prasad whom he said were like his own children.
With inputs from M I Khan in Patna