New Delhi: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan finally expanded his cabinet Thursday. Twenty-eight new ministers — 20 with cabinet rank and eight ministers of state — took oath at Raj Bhavan in Bhopal to take the total strength of the council of ministers to 33. But 14 of the ministers are not even MLAs, providing a reminder of how crucial the upcoming by-elections to 24 assembly seats are for the BJP.
The 14 ministers — four of them ministers of state — were among 22 MLAs who had resigned from the assembly to switch from the Congress to the BJP along with Jyotiraditya Scindia, the former Union minister and now BJP Rajya Sabha member. Twelve of them took oath Thursday to join Tulsi Silawat and Govind Singh Rajput, who were sworn-in in March.
Scindia loyalists who took oath Thursday are Bisahulal Singh, Andel Singh Kansana, Imarti Devi, Prabhuram Chaudhary, Mahendra Singh Sisodia, Pradhuman Singh Tomar, Hardeep Singh Dang, Rajyavardhan Singh, Brijendra Singh Yadav, Girraj Dandotiya, Suresh Dhakad, and O.P.S. Bhadoriya.
In all, the 230-member Madhya Pradesh assembly has 24 vacant seats, due to the resignation of these 22 MLAs and the deaths of two others. So, with the strength of the House reduced to 206, the BJP has a slender majority with 107 MLAs while the Congress, after the desertions, has 92. The Bahujan Samaj Party holds two seats, the Samajwadi Party one, while four are held by Independents.
Thus, in the upcoming bypolls, the BJP will have to win at least nine seats out of 24 to keep its government safe, while for the 14 former Congress leaders who are now ministers, it will be imperative to win their respective seats.
The Congress slammed the BJP for indulging in “power-hungry” politics.
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“The way in which 14 leaders, who are not even MLAs, have been made ministers in Madhya Pradesh (shows) this cabinet is against democratic values. The leaders of BJP who have been serving for 30-40 years and have also served as MLAs 6-7 times have been ignored in this exercise,” said Ajay Singh Yadav, spokesperson for the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee.
“This cabinet is totally fulfilling the terms of the bargain deal done in Bengaluru (the resort where the 22 former Congress MLAs were kept). The public will teach the BJP a lesson,” he said.
However, speaking to reporters after the swearing-in ceremony, Scindia termed Kamal Nath’s previous Congress administration as a “government of the corrupt”, and said voters would give it a befitting reply in the bypolls.
Mentioning the social media campaign of the Congress against him, he said: “They tried to tarnish my image, but ‘Tiger’ abhi zinda hai.”
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