Operation Lotus Fails in Bihar, Five Muslims Get Ministerial Berths

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If we compare 2022 with 2020 when the JDU aligned with the BJP to form the government in the state, there was not a single Muslim minister in Nitish Kumar's cabinet.

Syed Ali Mujtaba

BIHAR Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, after the expansion of his cabinet, has made public that there will be five Muslim ministers in his cabinet of 31 ministers that took oath on August 16, 2022.

The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) broke away from the BJP and was successful in retaining power in the newly formed government with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and other allies. The party gave only one ministerial berth to its member from the minority community from its quota. Jama Khan was made Minister of Minority Affairs.

In contrast, the RJD gave three ministerial berths to the minority community members from its quota. Shamim Ahmed made sugarcane minister, Shahnawaz Alam got disaster management, and Mohammad Israil Mansoori got information technology.

The Congress, an alliance partner of the JDU-RJD combined government, has given only one ministerial berth to a member of the minority community, Afaq Alam. He has become the Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Minister of Bihar.

If we compare 2022 with 2020 when the JDU aligned with the BJP to form the government in the state, there was not a single Muslim minister in Nitish Kumar’s cabinet. Even the Minority Affairs Ministry was held by Ashok Chaudhary, a close confidant of the Bihar CM. This was worse than in Uttar Pradesh where a lone Muslim BJP MLA was made Minister for Minority Affairs.

In the cabinet expansion, the RJD got as many as 16 ministerial berths. The JDU got 11 and the Congress got 2 ministerial berths. Jitin Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha and an Independent MLA Sumit Kumar Singh also found a place in the new cabinet.

It is learned from the sources that five ministerial berths are kept reserved for future expansion of the Bihar cabinet that can have up to 36 ministers, including the Chief Minister.

The Grand Alliance of Bihar has a strength of 163.  Now, it has climbed to 164 after Sumit Kumar Singh, an Independent MLA, extended his support to the JDU-RJD alliance and got a ministerial berth in the new government. The RJD- JDU government is likely to prove majority in the Assembly on August 24.

Earlier, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar pulled the rug under the BJP’s feet when the saffron party was set to launch a surgical strike, code-named Operation Lotus. Buoyed by the success of its operation in Maharashtra last month with the help of its Man Friday, Eknath Shinde, the BJP propped up RCP Singh, the former Union minister who was to plot a coup by taking JDU MLAs to some safe haven in the BJP-ruled state.

However, before he could make any moves, the Chanakya of Magadha got the wind of the ‘Gujarati trap’. He first exposed RCP Singh’s ill-gotten wealth and sought his explanation. This made the BJP’s ‘Mohra’ (pawn) resign from the primary membership of the JD(U). This happened on August 7.

Even before the BJP could launch a strike on Nitish Kumar with the help of RCP Singh, the Vikas Prush of Bihar parted ways with the BJP. He hems a new alliance with the RJD and other political parties and took oath on August 10 with RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav as his deputy. This is how Nitish Kumar became the chief minister of Bihar for the seventh time.

The BJP got the taste of its own medicine in Bihar. Now, the saffron party’s top brass is holding meetings with the party’s leaders in the state. The party is to deliberate on the reasons for the failure of Operation Lotus in Bihar and the future course of action in the changed situation there.
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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Chennai-based journalist. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com

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