Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday expanded his cabinet as 28 new ministers took oath at the Raj Bhavan. Among them were a dozen of Jyotiraditya Scindia's loyalists, while several senior BJP leaders were snubbed.
This is perhaps the first such cabinet in Madhya Pradesh where 12 non-MLAs are included as ministers. All of them are former Congressmen mostly from Scindia camp, who have been obliged with the ministerial berths.
The acting governor Anandiben Patel administered oath of office and secrecy to the newly-inducted ministers at a simple function. A total of 20 cabinet ministers and eight ministers of state were included.
With 16 assembly by-polls being due in Gwalior-Chambal region, most of the new faces came from the region as CM Chouhan packed his cabinet with 28 ministers leaving a single ministerial berth vacant so as to strike a balance in caste, region and all-important Scindia camp. In all, the state is to witness 24 assembly by-polls and the cabinet expansion had imprints of approaching crucial electoral battle.
Prominent faces from the Scindia camp include Imarti Devi, Pradyumn Singh Tomar, Prabhuram Chaudhary, Rajyavardhan Singh Dattigaon, Mahendra Singh Sosidia, OPS Bhadauria.
Key tribal leaders to get cabinet berths are Vijay Shah, Ram Kishore Kawre and Bisahulal Singh.
Former Leader of Opposition Gopal Bhargav, who had openly expressed resentment amid talks of being side-lined from the cabinet, eventually got a berth in the cabinet. However, his former cabinet colleagues including Rajendra Shukla, Rampal Singh, Gaurishankar Bisen, Ajay Vinshnoi, Mahednra Hardiya and others could not find a place in the cabinet.
As a surprise, Usha Tahkur, a senior MLA from Indore, was inducted into the cabinet. Her induction evoked surprise as Thakur has been an adversary to BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya whose cordial relations with the party high command are no secret.
Name of Vijayvargiya’s close aide Ramesh Mendola was in the hunt for a ministerial berth.
Arvind Singh Bhadauria, a senior MLA from BJP who represents Ater seat in Bhind, also was rewarded with a ministerial berth for his active role in staging a rebellion in Kamal Nath government.
Sources claimed that party high command dropped several names from the original list handed by party state unit. Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia reportedly was adamant on ministerial berths for his loyalists and eventually managed to get his demand fulfilled by getting a dozen of his followers included in the cabinet.
Former ministers – Rampal Singh and Gaurishankar Bisen — could not hide their disappointment of not being considered for cabinet berths saying they were deprived from ministerial berths due to Scindia camp leaders. They, however, claimed that they accept the decision of the party high command with respect.
Congress was quick to attack BJP for the choice of ministers.
“I am pained to not see eligible, senior and committed BJP leaders among ministers,” former Chief Minister Kamal Nath said in a tweet. In another tweet, Nath pointed out that 14 out of 33 ministers aren’t MLA in this cabinet. "It’s a mockery of constitutional provisions and a joke with the public," he added.
The state assembly with 230 seats allows any government to have at the most 35 ministers with the expansion of cabinet, now only a single ministerial berth is vacant in Shivraj cabinet.
Congress party also took potshots on CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan for his loyalists being ignored and several of his adversaries finding berths in the cabinet.