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Firmly in saddle, Harish Rawat mulls Cabinet rejig

dehradun Updated: Jul 27, 2014 18:15 IST
Deep Joshi
Harish Rawat

Boosted by a heart-warming performance in the assembly by-polls, a rejuvenated Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat is likely to rejig his 11-member Cabinet to replace some ministers for their "underperformance and irregularities".

The ruling Congress, which was routed in the Lok Sabha polls, won all the three seats in the assembly by-polls with Rawat himself being elected to the House.

The three seats have taken the party's tally in the 70-member House to 35, just one short of majority.

"The CM will also try to pacify various factions of the ruling party besides balancing the state's complicated caste and regional equations while carrying out his proposed Cabinet rejig," a senior Congress leader revealed.

Sources said as many as five ministers might be replaced in the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle.

Those facing the axe include Dinesh Aggrawal, Surendra Singh Negi, Mantri Prasad Naithani, Yashpal Arya and Surendra Rakesh.

State Congress president Kishore Upadhya too did not rule out a reshuffle.

"Which new faces the CM would induct into his cabinet and which ministers he would drop…he will take all such decisions in view of the party's strategy relating to the next assembly elections due in 2017," Upadhya said when HT sought his comments about the proposed cabinet reshuffle.

Of the five ministers, Naithani and Rakesh are from the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), an ally of the Congress-led coalition government.

Rakesh, who was recently expelled from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), may be dropped from the Rawat cabinet on health grounds, according to sources.

The buzz is that Rakesh himself has requested the CM to drop him due to his bad health.

"The rest three ministers may be dropped from the cabinet as the CM isn't happy with their performance and due to their various irregularities," said the Congress leader but refusing to elaborate.

"All three are under the scanner since the CM began scrutiny of all his cabinet colleagues' performance after he took over," he added. Upadhyay refused to comment on both the allegations.

Besides, Rawat's cabinet rejig is also aimed at curbing infighting in the Congress and balance caste and regional equations.

"For instance, Naithani, a minister from the PDF quota, may be replaced with Congress MLA from Narendra Nagar Subodh Uniyal, both of whom are Brahmin by caste," he added.

Uniyal's induction into the cabinet would also help control infighting in the Congress as he belongs to the party's faction led by the CM's bete noir and predecessor Vijay Bahuguna, the sources said.

Similarly, if the CM drops Dinesh Aggrawal from his cabinet, who is Bania by caste, another Congress MLA from the same community Shailandra Mohan Singhal may be awarded with the post of the state assembly speaker.

That would facilitate incumbent speaker GS Kunjwal's induction into the cabinet who is Rajput by caste besides hailing from Kumaon.

Sources said the CM had plans to carry out a cabinet reshuffle after he took over on February 1 but chose not to go ahead as the Congress' tally in the House was then far below the simple majority.

Rawat, however did replace former minister Amrita Rawat with PDF MLA Dinesh Dhane in the wake of the party's rout in the Lok Sabha elections.