With a dozen of his supporters and loyalists finding a place in Madhya Pradesh's Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet on Thursday, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jyotiraditya Scindia took a dig at his former party Congress with the quip "Tiger abhi zinda hai".
The one-liner was famously used by Chouhan himself when he had cautioned the-then Kamal Nath government over alleged atrocities against BJP workers, months ago.
Following a recent win in Rajya Sabha polls and induction of nine of his followers and three supporters in the cabinet, Scindia took aim at leaders from his former party who had been targeting him after he switched sides.
Two Scindia supporters –Tulsiram Silawat and Govind Singh Rajput –were in the state cabinet already.
“We are to witness 24 assembly bypolls and the public will offer a fitting reply to the government of the corrupts. To walk on the path of justice is everyone’s duty and even if a battle is required for this, you will find Jyotiraditya Scindia in the first row,” said a confident-looking Scindia after the cabinet reshuffle.
“In the last two months, I have been seeing concerted attempts of character assassination and I wish to say to them (Congress) that Tiger abhi zinda hai,” said the Scindia family scion, who is on the Congress party’s radar after deserting it and helping the BJP form the government in Madhya Pradesh.
“Every poll is a challenge but the public is aware. The 15-month government engaged in all sorts of corruption and promises were broken. While the Shivraj government always engages in serving the public. I am confident that the BJP will win all the 24 seats and the public will offer a befitting reply to the corrupt government.”
Describing the cabinet expansion, Scindia called it an "expansion of public servants" and added that CM Chouhan has formed an army of public servants.
Out of the 33 ministers in Shivraj Chouhan's cabinet, 11 are staunch Scindia loyalists, while three others –Bisahulal Singh, Hardeep Singh Dang and Aidal Singh Kansana– had left the Congress with him in March.
Going by this, Scindia has grown in strength after switching to the BJP as only half a dozen of his supporters were ministers in Kamal Nath's cabinet.
Amid talks of discord in his party over the cabinet expansion, Chouhan after the oath-taking ceremony suggested all was well. “It’s a cabinet of a single party, single heart and single aim of development and growth of Madhya Pradesh,” he said. On being asked about his old colleagues missing ministerial berths, Chouhan said, "Responsibilities keep changing and if there is some issue, we will take care of that."
Chouhan loyalists including Rajendra Shukla, Rampal Singh, Rameshwar Sharma and others failed to make the cut when the cabinet expanded with 28 new ministers.
Sanjay Pathak, who had switched from the Congress to the BJP, also missed the ministerial berth despite the fact he was allegedly pressured to ditch the BJP amid political trouble in MP but he stood his ground.
Independent legislators like Thakur Surendra Singh Shera and Pradip Jaiswal too were ignored despite expressing solidarity with the BJP after the fall of the Kamal Nath government.
BSP leader Rambai Singh, her party colleague Sanjeev Kushwaha, and former SP MLA Rajesh Shukla who is now expelled from the party for supporting the BJP in the Rajya Sabha polls too had no place in the cabinet.
“This government came to power with the support of those who shunned memberships to assembly and ministerial posts and it was obvious that they were to be appointed as ministers. Besides, it was our duty to embrace them with respect,” Sanjay Pathak told News18. Other leaders like Gaurishankar Bisen and Rampal Singh too made remarks accepting that the Scindia camp reserved first right on ministerial berths.
There were others who could not hide their disappointment.
Former minister Harishankar Khatik who wasn’t picked this time said, “The organisation has swollen due to the arrival of Congress leaders, so appointing everyone as minister wasn’t possible. Whoever was eligible was given berth in cabinet; by the way, we too were eligible.”
Supporters of BJP MLA from Indore Ramesh Mendola expressed anguish over his exclusion from the cabinet on and off social media. One of his supporters, Sumit Hardiya, allegedly even tried immolating himself on Thursday afternoon and was saved by party workers.
Three-time MLA Mendola holds the record of the biggest win in assembly polls and is a staunch loyalist of BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
The Congress also took a dig at the BJP for ignoring its own senior leaders and instead reposing faith in those who had jumped ship. “Due to a crowd of opportunists, leaders like Rajendra Shukla, Sanjay Pathak, Paras Jain, Gaurishankar Bisen, Rampal Singh, Jalam Singh and others are sidelined. Easy to understand that when Jaichands (turncoats) enter a party, committed party workers are shelved,” Congress media cell chairman Jitu Patwari said.
Besides offering a chance to Congress rebels, Shivraj Chouhan's cabinet also included nine new faces apart from expressing faith in seven former ministers.