Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday inducted eight JD-U MLAs as Cabinet Ministers, leaving out his ally the BJP and fuelling speculation of a rift between the two parties.
The Cabinet expansion came two days after the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief decided that his party won't join Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government because it was offered just one seat -- a "symbolic" representation.
There are now 33 Ministers in the Nitish Kumar Cabinet, up from 25.
The newly appointed Ministers are Ashok Coudhary, Shyam Rajak, Narendra Narayan Yadav, Sanjay Jha, Ramsewak Singh, Lakshmeshwar Rai, Neeraj Kumar and Bima Bharti. Bima Bharti is the only woman.
Governor Lalji Tandon administered the oath of office and secrecy to the Ministers at a simple ceremony held at the Raj Bhavan. Five of the eight are first-time Ministers.
Nitish Kumar clarified that there was no split in the NDA. "BJP has decided that induction of their quota in the Cabinet would be done later," he said.
But some JD-U leaders, who did not want to be named, said the Chief Minister was upset by the way the BJP had offered "symbolic representation" in the Modi government though the JD-U won 16 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats it contested.
"The timing of the Cabinet expansion and induction of only JD-U MLAs are clear signs that Nitish Kumar is unhappy with the BJP leadership," a senior JD-U leader said.
Nitish Kumar, his supporters believe, has sent a message to the BJP that the JD-U is the "big brother" in Bihar and his face would be the face of the NDA in the next Assembly elections.
BJP leaders have tried to downplay the development.
Senior BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi said that there was no dispute over the Cabinet expansion.
He claimed that Nitish Kumar had offered the BJP to also fill up the ministerial berths but the BJP will wait for now.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gave only one ministerial berth to each of its allies in the new Modi government.