New Delhi: Jyotiraditya Scindia finally had his way as he managed to get 12 of his loyalists to become part of the Madhya Pradesh cabinet that inducted 28 new ministers Thursday.
Scindia, whose exit from the Congress led to the collapse of the party’s Madhya Pradesh government and brought the BJP to power in the state, got a lion’s share even as CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan managed to accommodate 10 from his camp.
Home Minister Narottam Mishra and Kailash Vijayvargiya also had their share as six among the 28 new ministers belong to their camps.
According to sources, Chouhan was unable to get many of his supporters added to the list as the central leadership dropped some names suggested by him.
The state so far had a five-member cabinet of Narottam Mishra, Kamal Patel, Meena Singh, Tulsi Silawat and Govind Singh Rajput. The latter two are also Scindia loyalists, who came to the BJP with him in March.
The oath-taking took place Thursday with 28 ministers, including eight ministers of state, being inducted into the cabinet.
New ministers and some names that were dropped
In the 33-member cabinet of Madhya Pradesh now, 14 ministers are from the Scindia camp. The 12 loyalists who were inducted Thursday are Bisahulal Singh, Andel Singh Kansana, Imarti Devi, Prabhuram Chaudhary, Mahendra Singh Sisodia, Pradyuman Singh Tomar, Hardeep Singh Dang, Rajyavardhan Singh, Brijendra Singh Yadav, Girraj Dandotiya, Suresh Dhakad and O.P.S. Bhadoriya.
Chauhan’s trusted colleagues such as Rajendra Shukla, Gauri Shanker Bisen, Jalam Singh Patel, Sanjay Pathak, Ram Pal Singh have not been included.
“Shukla was instrumental in managing resources, while Pathak was the one who managed resources during operation Kamal,” said a senior leader, who added that they were not included due to “pressure from Vijaywargiya and Mishra”.
“The CM had suggested including younger faces in the cabinet which has been done,” said the leader.
The ten new ministers in the cabinet from Chouhan camp are Gopal Bhargav, Bhupender Singh, Vijay Shah, Vishwas Sarang, Prem Singh Patel, Usha Thakur, Yashodhara Raje Scindia, Arvind Bhadoria, Inder Singh Parmar and Brijendra Pratap Singh.
Though a few leaders in the party said Narrotam Mishra and Vijayvargiya’s “influence” may have led to Chouhan getting only 10 of his supporters, the two were also not able to get many of their own loyalists a cabinet berth.
For instance, some leaders hinted, Mishra had been camping in Delhi for the past few days lobbying for deputy chief minister post, but the high command seemed to have ignored his plea.
Vijayvargiya’s close aide Ramesh Mendola, an MLA, was also not given space in the cabinet. Instead of Mendola, Usha Thakur, who is close to Union minister Rajnath Singh, took oath as minister.
Among the new ministers, Ramkhelawan Patel, Mohan Yadav, Om Prakash Sakhlecha, Bharat Singh Kushwaha, Ram Kishore and Jagdish Devda are considered to be from Vijayvargiya and Mishra camps.
Interestingly, among the 28 new members of the cabinet, 10 are from the Gwalior-Chambal region. This is crucial because many seats where the upcoming bypolls are scheduled later this year are in those areas.
The cabinet does not have a single representation from the Vindhya region that is considered a BJP bastion.
The ‘pressure’ on Chouhan
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”.
A day before the cabinet expansion, Chouhan had also set political circles abuzz with speculation about his unhappiness. The chief minister had cryptically said, “Amrit (nectar of immortality) comes out of the churning of the ocean, as Shiva consumes ‘vish’ (poison).” Many within the BJP viewed the comment in the context of Chouhan’s inability to have a final say in the choice of ministers.
Thursday’s cabinet expansion was presided over by UP Governor Anandiben Patel, who has been given additional charge of MP by President Ram Nath Kovind in view of Governor Lalji Tandon’s poor health. To finalise the list of names, Chouhan had first met Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J.P. Nadda and Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar in New Delhi Sunday evening. He was accompanied by Madhya Pradesh BJP chief V.D. Sharma and the party’s organisation secretary in the state, Suhas Bhagat. He later met Jyotiraditya Scindia too.
Sources further said as the high command of the BJP dropped many names from Chauhan’s list, Narottam Mishra rushed to Delhi and another round of meetings took place before the names were finalised. “Chouhan has been fighting many battles. First when he took over, and when he tried to expand the cabinet. When the cabinet was expanded the first time, only five ministers took oath and Narottam Mishra was given high-profile portfolios such as home and health. Mishra improved his stature and became the de facto number two and the list of ministers is indicative of that,” said a senior BJP leader.
The cabinet expansion comes months before the crucial bypolls and a number of BJP leaders are upset over the party promoting the Congress leaders who joined the BJP, ignoring the hard work they did in the past few years.