Nitish again Bihar CM, Lalu’s son his deputy

ArrayPatna, Nov 20 (IANS) JD-U stalwart Nitish Kumar on Friday again took oath as Bihar’s chief minister, making his ally and RJD leader Lalu Prasad’s son Tejaswi his deputy as the state got its first coalition government of the JD-U, the RJD and the Congress.

In a clear admission of the role Lalu Prasad played in routing the BJP in assembly elections, Tejaswi Yadav, 26, was allocated the portfolios of PWD and forest and environment while elder son Tej Pratap, 28, was named the health minister.

Nitish Kumar, 64, who headed the Grand Alliance that worsted the Bharatiya Janata Party, kept with him the home, information and public relations as well as general administration ministries.

Veteran RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui got the finance portfolio. Congress leader Ashok Choudhary is the new education minister.

Earlier, cheered by some one lakh supporters and watched by leaders of a dozen parties, Nitish Kumar was sworn in by Governor Ram Nath Kovind at the sprawling Gandhi Maidan at the head of a 28-member ministry.

Dressed in his usual white kurta pyjama, the chief minister took the oath of office and secrecy in the name of God at an event billed as the first major show of strength by non-BJP parties since Narendra Modi became the prime minister last year.

It is the fifth time engineer-turned-politician Nitish Kumar was sworn-in as the chief minister.

Lalu Prasad, whose RJD is the single largest party in the 243-member house, appeared pleased when his sons took oath immediately after Nitish Kumar.

Tej Pratap Yadav was interrupted twice by Governor Kovind after he made a slip while taking his oath.

Besides Nitish Kumar, 12 legislators each of the RJD and JD-U and four from the Congress were sworn in. Lalu Prasad’s sons got the maximum cheers after the chief minister from the boisterous crowd.

A virtual Who’s Who of political parties ranged against the BJP were present in strength at the Gandhi Maidan, with Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi making it to the venue only 30 minutes after it began.

Those present included Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Virbhadra Singh (Himachal Pradesh), S. Siddaramaiah (Karnataka), Oommen Chandy (Kerala), Tarun Gogoi (Assam), P.K. Chamling (Sikkim), O. Ibobi Singh (Manipur) and Nabam Tuki (Arunachal Pradesh).

The others were CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D. Raja, former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad, M.K. Stalin of DMK and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

Representing Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the dais was central minister M. Venkaiah Naidu.

A total of 12 non-BJP parties were in attendance: JD-U, RJD, Congress, Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, CPI-M, Janata Dal-S, NCP, DMK, CPI, National Conference and Sikkim Democratic Front.

Angry over his non-inclusion in the council of ministers, JD-U leader and former minister Shayam Razak did not attend the function.

The Grand Alliance won 178 of the 243 seats in the Bihar assembly. The BJP, which had hoped to oust Nitish Kumar, bagged 53 seats while its three allies together got five seats.

The Bihar battle was the biggest popularity test after the Delhi assembly election of February which the BJP lost badly to the AAP.

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