Madhya Pradesh cabinet expansion exercise carried out on Thursday by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the first in his third term, was marked by controversies. Two senior ministers boycotted the swearing in ceremony and questioned the BJP leadership decision to drop them on the ground of their age.
A mining baron who switched over to the BJP from the Congress only two years back was inducted in the cabinet despite opposition from a section of the committed party workers and leaders.
Nine ministers inducted include Omprakash Dhruve, Archna Chitnis, Rustam Singh and Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya, all cabinet ministers, Harsh Singh, Sanjay Pathak, Lalita Yadav, Surya Prakash Meena and Vishwas Sarang, all ministers of state.
Governor Ram Naresh Yadav administered the oath of office and secrecy to the ministers at a function at Raj Bhavan premises.
Closed door meetings were held till afternoon at the CM house to deal with the possible situation arising out of the party decision to ask home minister Babulal Gaur (86) and Sartaj Singh (75) to step down from the cabinet. The party dropped them on the ground of their being above 75 years of age.
State BJP president Nandkumar Singh Chauhan conveyed the party’s decision to Gaur and Sartaj by visiting them at their bungalows in the afternoon.
Gaur caused a flutter in the party and the government by refusing to comply with the decision asking the party to tell what his mistake was. It led to a slew of phone calls between Bhopal and Delhi and the party national general secretary (organisation) Ramlal later reportedly convincing Gaur to put in his papers. It was in the evening that Gaur sent his resignation letter to the CM.
Babulal Gaur, Sartaj Singh keep away from the swearing in ceremony
Sartaj Singh complied with the decision but he also questioned the party’s decision saying he travelled more than any young minister and that performance should be a criterion for dropping any minister from the cabinet.
Both the ministers kept away from the swearing in ceremony.
Two time party MLA from Indore Sudarshan Gupta who got enough hints from the party that he would get a ministerial berth made all the preparations for lunch of his party workers at his bungalow, who assembled in a good number in Bhopal. However, much to his disappointment his name was dropped.
A surprise inclusion in team Shivraj is Sanjay Pathak, a mining baron and son of a former minister Satyendra Pathak. Though elected on the Congress ticket from Vijayraghavgarh constituency in Katni district in 2008 and 2013 Sanjay quit the Congress and joined the BJP in March 2014. Later, he was elected on a BJP ticket in the by-poll for the assembly seat.
Omprakash Dhruve, Archna Chitnis and Rustam Singh have been ministers while Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya who has been Bajrang Dal national president and member of parliament has become a minister first time. While Dhruve is the only tribal leader among the new ministers none of the scheduled caste MLAs could make it to the cabinet.
Of the ministers of state Lalita Yadav comes from Bundelkhand region and her induction was done, as say the party sources, in a bid to send out a message regarding caste equations in ensuing assembly elections in 2017 in Uttar Pradesh. All the ministers of state have won assembly elections at least twice. Vishwas Sarang is son of a veteran BJP leader Kailash Sarang who has been a patron of Chouhan when the latter was struggling to establish himself in politics more than two decades back.