Janata Dal(U) leader Nitish Kumar took oath as the Chief Minister of Bihar and Tejashwi Yadav as the Deputy Chief Minister on Wednesday, in a reprise of 2015, when they were sworn in together, only to part ways in 2017.
Governor Phagu Chouhan administered the oath of office to them at the Raj Bhavan in Patna. The rest of the Cabinet Ministers are likely to take oath later.
After the function, Mr. Yadav touched the feet of Mr. Kumar. Earlier, his mother, Rabri Devi, told presspersons that “everything has been forgiven”. She was referring to Mr. Kumar joining hands with the BJP to form a government after parting ways with the RJD in 2017.
“The oath of other Ministers may happen in a day or two, before the inauspicious month of Kharwans, which begins on August 12,” a senior RJD leader said.
If party sources are to be believed, there would be 16 Cabinet Ministers, including Lalu Prasad’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav, from the RJD. It is said that 13 JD(U) leaders would join the Cabinet.
Leaders of all seven Mahagatbandhan, or grand alliance, parties were present.
Talking to presspersons after taking the oath, Mr. Kumar said he would not be there as Chief Minister in 2024. “What will happen I do not know, but this is sure that I’ll not be here in 2024,” he said, throwing enough indications that he would prefer to be part of national politics by that time.
Asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Kumar said, “In 2014, he became PM, but only time will tell whether he would remain there in 2024 or not.”
“I’m not an aspirant for the Prime Minister’s post but in 2024 all (Opposition parties) should come together,” Mr. Kumar said.
On the difference between then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mr. Modi, Mr. Kumar said, “Vajpayee had given us so much of love, warmth and respect that we cannot ever forget but the situation has quite changed now”.
Asked about what went wrong with the BJP, Mr. Kumar said, “You all know it very well...I was not speaking to you all for the last one-and-half month. My partymen will let you know everything.”
Mr. Kumar once again asserted that he didn’t want to become Chief Minister in 2020 but “there was pressure from all sides so I accepted the post”.
“You all must be knowing how many seats JD(U) had got in 2015 Assembly elections [70 seats] and how much in the 2020 Assembly poll . Why my party was reduced to such a low figure? A lot of things were going on so my partymen decided to snap ties with the BJP and I went with their decision,”, he said.
Meanwhile, BJP leaders sat on dharna at the party headquarters on Wednesday to condemn Mr. Kumar’s “betrayal”. “The BJP made him Chief Minister five times but he [Mr. Kumar] betrayed us. The people of Bihar will give him a befitting reply,” senior State BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said.
Mr. Sushil Kumar Modi has been close to Mr. Nitish Kumar and in NDA governments, he had been his deputy in the Cabinet.
Probable Ministers in new cabinet
JD(U) leaders, including Vijay Choudhary, Ashok Choudhary, Bijendra Yadav, Sanjay Jha, Upendra Kushwaha, Shrawan Kumar, Zama Khan, are likely to be made Ministers. From another Mahagatbandhan ally — the Congress — State party president Madan Mohan Jha, Ajit Sharma, Shakil Ahmad Khan and Rajesh Kumar Ram are likely to take oath as Ministers.
Names of RJD leaders such as Alok Mehta, Lalit Yadav, Anita Devi, Kumar Sarvajit, Bhai Birendra, Surendra Ram, Veena Singh are doing the rounds in political circles as probable choices.
Santosh Kumar Manjhi, son of Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) Jitan Ram Manjhi, is being considered.
The Left parties — the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and CPI(M) — are likely to support the new government from outside. “They may not be the part of the government,” said a senior RJD leader.