Rift in Ram-Laxman jodi: Local media focus on Sushil Modi being left out of Nitish Kumar’s cabinet

Local newspapers and TV channels also reported on the new ministry’s caste balancing act.

ByAnna Priyadarshini
Rift in Ram-Laxman jodi: Local media focus on Sushil Modi being left out of Nitish Kumar’s cabinet
Anubhooti Gupta
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Yesterday, Nitish Kumar was sworn in for a fourth consecutive term as chief minister of Bihar at Patna’s Raj Bhavan. Kumar, along with a 14-member council of ministers, was administered the oath of office by governor Phagu Chauhan in the presence of union home minister Amit Shah and Bharatiya Janata Party president JP Nadda.

The National Democratic Alliance had won the state election last week, securing 125 out of 243 Assembly seats. The Rashtriya Janata Dal boycotted the event, stating that the “mandate for change was against the NDA”.

A surprise twist at the swearing-in was the failure of Sushil Kumar Modi in securing a place in the new cabinet. Modi has been Kumar’s deputy for 15 long years since 2005 — the longest term served in the position — but has now been replaced by Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi, who will jointly hold the post of deputy chief minister.

Modi tweeted on Sunday evening: “At least no one can take away my position as a party worker.”

Modi’s exclusion from Nitish Kumar’s cabinet formed the focal point of the media’s coverage of the swearing-in ceremony. Here’s a quick look at how Bihar’s local media reported the event.

News18 Bihar Jharkhand

The regional news channel discussed in detail the “rift” in the Kumar-Modi relationship. Modi and Kumar have traditionally been called a “Ram-Laxman jodi” in the state.

While airing a photograph of Kumar at the ceremony with his new deputies, anchor Sumit Jha said that in 2017, when the Janata Dal (United) left its ally the RJD to join hands with the NDA, there had been a smile on Kumar and Modi’s faces. Now, Jha said, that smile is missing.

“Today, he [Kumar] is accompanied by Prasad and Devi and seems so distant...there is no smile on his face,” Jha said.

News18 Bihar Jharkhand used headlines such as “Toot Gaya Nitish-Sushil Modi ka Bandhan” and “Naye saajhedaar ke saath ab Nitish ka sangam” to make its point. Describing Modi-Kumar’s “emotional connect” in the past, Jha said: “This time, it’s all changed. The one who always stuck around Kumar and was like his shadow will not be seen from now on.”

Sadhna Plus

Sadhna Plus, a Hindi news channel owned by Asia Limited, tried to break down the “caste factor” that led to Tarkishore Prasad being appointed as one of the state’s two deputy chief ministers. Reporter Abhishek Kumar Singh said that by electing Prasad, the BJP has kept caste representation “intact”.

On Modi being sidelined, Singh said that politicians had not been “agreeable” to Modi’s appointment; hence, he was “removed” from the cabinet. “The BJP’s USP has always been to give chances to new faces,” he said, “and hence Modi has been replaced by new deputies.”

Bihar Tak

Bihar Tak’s anchors Indra Mohan and Rashmi Sharma, while analysing the appointments of Tarkishore Prasad and Renu Devi, argued that it might be an attempt to deploy a “jaatiya samikaran”, or an ethnic equation. Describing it as “social engineering” by the BJP, the channel said that Narendra Modi’s mention of silent voters and women voters after the NDA’s victory in Bihar was an attempt to pave the way for Renu Devi.

Hindustan

The split between Modi and Kumar found prominence in the Patna edition of Hindustan, a Hindi daily published by Hindustan Media. The paper argued that the BJP has always “pushed” new faces, and this time as well, the BJP and JDU introduced five and two new faces in the cabinet, respectively. It also noted the appointment of senior BJP legislator Nand Kishore Yadav as the new speaker of the Bihar Assembly. Yadav, a seven-term MLA from Patna Sahib, has served as a minister in all the previous NDA governments in the state.

The newspaper’s web edition reported on how the newly formed cabinet was “all inclusionary of various social groups”, dominated by backward and extremely backward castes which is, the paper claimed, demonstrative of the government’s “concern” for these communities. Of the 14 members of the council, four each are from the upper castes and backward castes, and three each from the EBCs and scheduled castes.

It’s worth noting that despite this caste balancing act, the new cabinet does not have any Muslim representation, as pointed out by the Times of India.

Dainik Bhaskar

Dainik Bhaskar, a Hindi daily owned by the Dainik Bhaskar Group, carried an analysis of how the number “7” has proved to be a “lucky number” in Kumar’s career. For example, the paper said the swearing was held on November 16, and 1+6=7. In the same vein, he was sworn in at 4.30 pm, and 4+3= 7 too.

The paper also focused on Sushil Kumar Modi, with a report by editor Satish Singh stating that Modi’s charm had always worked in Bihar, and that he had been “in tune” with Nitish Kumar. “Now, time will tell if Prasad and Devi’s coordination and synergy will be as effective as that of Modi,” Singh wrote.

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Also Read : How Nitish Kumar won Bihar, again
Also Read : Bihar: Same chief minister, different power equation
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