New Delhi: With bypolls looming, the BJP high command has given its go-ahead for Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to expand his cabinet. The exercise will be carried out Tuesday in all probability.
According to sources, Chouhan 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.
“On Monday morning too, another round of meeting took place between Shah and Chouhan following which they met Jyotiraditya Scindia,” said a senior BJP leader.
Chouhan also met other BJP leaders in the national capital.
During his meeting with Nadda and Shah, a source said, Chouhan discussed names of probable candidates to be inducted into the cabinet.
Chouhan is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi later on Monday before he heads back to the state. He has not met Modi since he took over as the chief minister on 23 March. “The issue of cabinet expansion is likely to be taken up in the meeting apart from the current political situation in the state where by-elections are to take place in September,” said another senior BJP leader.
The sources said the state unit was waiting for the Rajya Sabha elections and now that it is over, the party wants to complete the cabinet expansion and focus on the “crucial” by-elections to 24 seats, which are to be held before September.
Pressure mounting on CM from Scindia faction
According to the party sources, pressure had been mounting on the chief minister for the past few months to expand his cabinet and accommodate more of the 22 former Congress MLAs who had helped him topple the previous Kamal Nath government.
The state currently has a five-member cabinet of Narottam Mishra, Kamal Patel, Meena Singh, Tulsi Silawat and Govind Singh. Silawat and Rajput are Scindia loyalists who quit the Congress and joined the BJP.
Another reason for the Chouhan’s delay in expanding his cabinet has been pressure from his own party MLAs who feared losing out to the defectors. The sources said at least nine members of the Scindia camp are likely to be inducted into the cabinet, leaving the chief minister with little manoeuvring room with regard to the disgruntled BJP leaders.
“The cabinet expansion is likely to take place tomorrow and at least nine MLAs of Scindia camp are likely to be accommodated. At the same time, 15 BJP MLAs, many of whom had served in the previous Chouhan government are also to be accommodated,” said the second BJP leader quoted above. “Scindia supporters Pradhuman Singh Tomar and Imarti Devi are likely to be inducted. From the BJP’s side, Gopal Bhargava, Bhupendra Singh, Rajendra Shukla are some of the names doing the rounds.”
On Sunday, the President gave the additional charge of MP to Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, in view of Madhya Pradesh Governor Lalji Tandon’s poor health condition.