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Dhami confirms cabinet rejig in the offing, says outcome will ‘depend on ministers’ performance’

Dhami also said his government will bring land laws making sale, purchase of land difficult in hill areas and that Uttarakhand will be the first state to enact common civil code.

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Dehradun: Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami confirmed to ThePrint Saturday that his cabinet is likely to undergo a reshuffle in the coming days. He also said that the new land laws under consideration, once enforced, will make sale and purchase of land difficult for non-domiciles in the state’s hill areas.

“Reshuffle depends on performance of individual ministers and cabinet as a team. It can happen in the coming days as per need, but time cannot be predicted as there are several conditions and causes behind any big decision,” Dhami said without specifying a timeline for the rejig.

Asked if new faces will be inducted or whether sitting ministers could be benched, the chief minister said this is all “part of the process, but nothing can be predicted as space available in the ministry is known to everyone”.

According to the prescribed norms, the strength of a council of ministers in Uttarakhand cannot exceed 11, including the chief minister. At present, the state cabinet has 8 ministers — excluding Dhami — which leaves room for two new faces even if no minister is dropped from the cabinet.

Dhami also told ThePrint that apart from ensuring strict law and order and ensuring there is no let up in the alleged UKSSSC recruitment scam, his government “will enact strict land laws to protect the interests of people in hill areas and the first common civil code by any state in the country”.

“We are also working hard for infrastructural development, mainly power generation. Efforts are on to make Uttarakhand a power surplus state by reviving all viable power projects kept on hold for one reason or another,” he said.

Dhami added that the Uttarakhand government is “trying to resolve the 25 per cent THDC (Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited) equity share dispute with Uttar Pradesh at the earliest apart from fighting [for the state’s share] in court”.

Uttarakhand claims it was owed 25 per cent of THDC, a public sector undertaking (PSU), since the project is located in the Himalayan state carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000. However, the matter is still pending in court after UP filed a review petition challenging an earlier Supreme Court ruling in favour of Uttarakhand.

Also Read: Seat of vairagya vs development — Dhami govt at odds with priests on Kedarnath wall gold plating

‘All eyes on Santhosh’s visit’

The cabinet reshuffle comes close on the heels of an STF (Special Task Force) probe into alleged irregularities in the Uttarakhand Subordinate Service Selection Commission (UKSSSC) exam and an SIT (special investigation team) probe into the murder of 19-year-0ld Ankita Bhandari.

Speaking on the arrest of former UKSSSC chairman RBS Rawat, secretary Manohar Kanyal and former official RS Pokharia, Dhami said Sunday that “whoever indulges in corruption will not be spared at any cost”. 

In the Ankita Bhandari murder case, Dhami had assured her father that the police would conduct an “impartial probe” and ensure that the guilty are given the “strictest punishment”. Bhandari’s employer Pulkit Arya — prime accused in the case — is the son of now-expelled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vinod Arya.

On 27 September, Dhami was summoned to Delhi by the BJP’s central leadership and held an hour-long meeting with the party’s national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh before returning to Dehradun. Barely two days after Dhami’s return to the state, Santhosh visited Uttarakhand and held multiple meetings with ministers and party leaders.

A source in the Uttarakhand BJP told ThePrint that the chief minister will travel to Delhi again to discuss the cabinet reshuffle with the central leadership, adding that all eyes are now on Santhosh’s upcoming visit.

“Santhosh will come to Dehradun in the next 10-15 days. This may also lead to a final decision on the ministerial rejig. It is also likely that departments of some ministers could be withdrawn while others get additional responsibilities once the reshuffle plan is finalised,” a senior Uttarakhand BJP leader told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: BJP leader’s son’s resort in Rishikesh where Ankita worked didn’t have govt approvals


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