Sartaj Singh, asked to resign from the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet on Thursday, said he couldn’t believe that he was dropped from the ministry on the ground of his advanced age.
“I couldn’t believe that age could be a factor to drop me from the state cabinet. This is not done in any political party,” said the 76-year-old, who was serving as the PWD minister. He quit the cabinet hours before its expansion following directives in this regard from the top BJP leadership.
Sartaj Singh told Hindustan Times that he was hearing for some time that a few ministers could be dropped from the state cabinet on the ground that they were more than 75 years of age.
“This is not a manner to drop a minister when I have been travelling more than a minister can do since assuming office first as forest minister and then PWD minister,” he said.
Performance of a minister should be a criterion and not his age for a place in the cabinet, he said, adding that he would definitely talk to the senior party leaders in Delhi on the issue.
Home minister Babulal Gaur, 86, also a former chief minister, resigned from the cabinet along with Sartaj Singh on the same ground.
Cong fires fresh salvo at CM
Dropping of Babulal Gaur and Sartaj Singh from the ministry and induction of relatives of several BJP leaders in Thursday’s cabinet expansion gave fresh ammo to the Congress to fire salvos at chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Describing dropping of Gaur and Singh from the cabinet a part of “big political conspiracy”, Congress state unit spokesperson KK Mishra said the move disrespected the other backward caste, which forms 57% of the state’s population, and also insulted minority Sikh community.
“Both the leaders have loads of experience and a clean political career. By dropping them from the cabinet, the chief minister has ensured that the BJP can no longer take pride in being a party with difference,” said Mishra.
He questioned if both 76-year-old Gaur and 86-year-old Singh were dropped from the cabinet due to their advanced age, then why the same parameter did not apply to two other ministers Kusum Mehdele, 72, and Gyan Singh, 62.
“By inducting former chief minister Govind Narayan Singh’s son Harsh Singh, ex-state assembly speaker Brijmohan Mishra’s daughter Archana Chitnis and senior BJP leader Kailash Sarang’s son Vishwas Sarang into the council of ministers, hasn’t the BJP played politics of dynasty,” Mishra asked.
Reshuffle leaves Indore disappointed
The Cabinet expansion left Indore disappointed as none of its five MLAs was made a minister.
The BJP’s internal conflicts deprived the state’s commercial capital and financial hub of a minister who could place Indore’s problems before the government. Indore has had no minister after Mhow MLA Kailash Vijayvargiya quit the state cabinet last July to become the BJP’s national general secretary.
Ramesh Mendola, the BJP MLA who represents Indore assembly constituency-2, was the strongest contender for ministerial berth. The two-time MLA and Vijayvargiya’s close ally, who won 2013 assembly elections by a record margin of more than 91,000 votes, is considered one of the most influential leaders in the region.
“What proved deterrent for Mendola is that Lokayukt police have charge sheeted him in Sugnidevi College land scam as an accused in the court,” a BJP leader said. Another strong contender was two-time MLA Sudarshan Gupta who represents Indore assembly constituency-1.
In last two days, Vijayvargiya prevailed upon chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan that none from Indore should be made minister in case Mendola is excluded. As sparks intensified, state leadership decided to drop names from Indore and contain rebellion in Bhopal.