Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan did an image building exercise while distributing portfolios among his ministerial colleagues on Saturday night in the backdrop of embarrassment caused to him by controversies which marked the first cabinet expansion of his third term on June 30.
The fact that Chouhan took more than 48 hours to finalise portfolios shows under how much stress he was to arrive at a decision which had potential of making his task easier ahead of the 2018 assembly elections or create a roadblock for him if things don’t improve at the grassroots level.
Ahead of portfolio distribution, a message was doing rounds in power corridors that the chief minister has summoned performance reports of ministers so that he could reach a conclusion as to which of the departments to be given to which ministers.
BJP sources said Chouhan intended to convey a stern message to ministers that they were supposed to perform if they want to remain in their offices or retain their portfolios.
The message assumed much significance as the chief minister told his ministerial colleagues in his first meeting with them post-cabinet expansion that there would be a review of their performance every three months.
Chouhan expanded his cabinet on Thursday by inducting nine ministers, but the first such exercise in his third term was marked by controversies. Senior ministers - 86-year-old Babulal Gaur and 76-year-old Sartaj Singh, boycotted the swearing-in and questioned the BJP leadership’s decision to drop them because of their advanced age.
During the exercise, Chouhan also gave a message that notwithstanding the central leadership’s interference in the cabinet expansion, he was all powerful. That’s why the political heavyweights like Gopal Bhargava had to lose Cooperatives while Gaurishankar Shejwar, who was apparently willing to get another important department, couldn’t get so.
Mining baron Sanjay Pathak, whose induction in the cabinet caused a flutter in the party and annoyed many committed workers, got a less important micro, small and medium enterprises department for independent charge.
Despite his all out efforts to back the chief minister when the latter faced charges on the Vyapam scam from the Opposition, Umashankar Gupta had to lose higher education department. He now got politically less important portfolio of revenue.
Chouhan loyalists and close lieutenants Bhupendra Singh and Rampal Singh have emerged much stronger. Bhupendra, who was in-charge of Simhastha, now got the home ministry. He retains transport, a department which is supposed to be much important from the ruling party’s resources point of view.
Rampal got PWD. Many BJP workers and leaders are contractors with the PWD. Road, power and water play an important role at the time of assembly elections.
Narottam Mishra was given public relations for maintaining a better relation with the media. He also got water resources. Besides, he will continue to be a face of the government in the state assembly as the parliamentary affairs minister.
Yashodhra Raje Scindia suffered a major setback in the process. Industry was taken from her barely four months ahead of global investors meet scheduled at Indore, which is a prestigious event for the state government to woo investors.
She is left with sports and youth welfare, religious trusts and endowments.
The chief minister showed faith in Rajendra Shukla again by giving him industry. Shukla will continue to be in-charge of mineral resources.
All the ministers of state got independent charge of some department or the other - a deviation from the earlier practice. The newly inducted ministers of state could not have