New Delhi: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has set political circles abuzz with speculation about his unhappiness ahead of Thursday’s cabinet expansion in the state. Chouhan cryptically said Wednesday “amrit (nectar of immortality) comes out of the churning of the ocean, as Shiva consumes ‘vish’ (poison)”.
The comment is being seen in the context of Chouhan’s inability to have a final say in the choice of ministers who will be sworn in Thursday.
BJP sources told ThePrint that newly elected Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia has secured the induction of about 10 loyalists who had switched over along with him from the Congress, while Chouhan’s rivals in the party, especially Narottam Mishra, have also had a say in the list of ministers cleared by the high command.
Thursday’s cabinet expansion will be presided over by UP Governor Anandiben Patel, who has been given additional charge of MP by President Ram Nath Kovind in view of state Governor Lalji Tandon’s poor health.
BJP leaders downplay statement
Responding to a query from the media Wednesday, Chouhan said: “Manthan se sirf amrit hee nikalta hai, vish toh Shiv pee jaate hain.”
His statement triggered so much speculation about his unhappiness that the BJP’s MP in-charge, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, had to clear the air.
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“No one is dissatisfied and everyone will be adjusted. The list will be made public tomorrow and there’s no need to talk about it today,” Sahasrabuddhe told reporters in Bhopal.
Asked to comment on Chouhan’s statement about “consuming poison”, he said: “There’s nothing like that… There is no problem and no one is dissatisfied. Everything will be fine.”
While many in the BJP have said the CM’s statement is being “analysed too critically”, there are others who said this may be an indication of what is in store.
Another BJP leader said the statement was made in jest by Chouhan, and should not be viewed politically.
“This cabinet is being made keeping certain political compulsions in mind. The chief minister is aware of that and which is why this exercise took so much time, as everyone has to be accommodated,” this leader said. “But to see this statement of his and the tweet he posted earlier as an indication that he is showing his unhappiness is not entirely correct.”
Wrangling in cabinet expansion
The state currently has a five-member cabinet of Narottam Mishra, Kamal Patel, Meena Singh, Tulsi Silawat and Govind Singh Rajput. The latter two are Scindia loyalists who came to the BJP with him in March.
Party sources said pressure had been mounting on Shivraj Chouhan for the past several months to expand his cabinet and accommodate more former Congress MLAs, who had resigned from the assembly and helped him topple Kamal Nath’s government. At the same time, many in the state unit of the BJP were also upset at being “overlooked”.
“The chief minister has been fighting many battles right from the start when he took over, and when he tried to expand the cabinet. Finally, when the cabinet was expanded, only five ministers took oath and Narottam Mishra was given high-profile portfolios such as home and health. He improved his stature and became the de facto number two,” said a senior BJP leader.
Another party leader told ThePrint: “At least 9-10 leaders from the Scindia camp are likely to be accommodated in the cabinet expansion, leaving the chief minister with little manoeuvring room with regard to the disgruntled BJP leaders.”
The leader added: “A number of BJP leaders are upset over the party promoting the Congress leaders who joined the BJP, disregarding the hard work they did in the past few years.”
While Scindia supporters Pradhuman Singh Tomar and Imarti Devi are likely to be inducted, Gopal Bhargava, Bhupendra Singh and Rajendra Shukla are some of the ‘in-house’ names who could become ministers.
According to sources, it was earlier assumed that Chouhan’s list had got final approval from the high command. But Mishra rushed to Delhi and another round of meetings took place before the names were finalised.
The sources said the BJP’s state unit had been waiting for the Rajya Sabha elections, which took place on 19 June. Now that they are over, the next step is to complete cabinet expansion and then turn attention to the “crucial” bypolls to 24 assembly seats, which are to be held before September.
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