Chief minister Harish Rawat may carry out the long-pending cabinet rejig just after the assembly’s winter session, state Congress chief Kishore Upadhyay said on Friday, amid mounting pressure from the legislators of the faction-ridden ruling party to get a representation in the team.
A cabinet berth fell vacant after the death of state transport minister Subodh Rakesh last February. Rakesh was a Bahujan Samaj Party legislator.
Congress insiders said the general view within the party was its legislators should get a fair representation in the PDF-supported Rawat government.
Ignoring the Congress legislators for the 10-member cabinet may lead to resentment within the ruling party, which might cost it heavily in the 2017 assembly election, they said.
“The option of a cabinet reshuffle has been kept open keeping in view the aspirations of our party workers and the next assembly elections,” Upadhyay said.
Going by the numbers, the ratio of the Congress’ representation in the 10-member Rawat cabinet is heavily skewed compared to its ally, the PDF.
The Congress, which has gained absolute majority after its consecutive victory in the four assembly by-elections in the recent past, has 37 legislators in the 70-seat assembly. But it has just six ministers in the cabinet, whereas the number of PDF ministers stands at four (after the death of Rakesh) despite having a tally of just six MLAs.
The Congress legislators have been demanding replacement of the PDF ministers with the ruling party legislators since the death of Rakesh. The chief minister, however, has maintained that such a move would mean ditching the Congress’ time-tested ally that helped form its government in 2012. Most Congress leaders though do not buy that logic.
Rawat’s predecessor and bête noir Vijay Bahuguna recently suggested that any further delay in the cabinet reshuffle would end up causing resentment among the ruling party workers.
“It is time that our legislators were given ministerial responsibilities. That would mean that they would discharge work with zeal ahead of the 2017 elections,” he had told HT recently.
“The PDF ministers can be compensated by giving them ministerial-level responsibilities,” said the former chief minister who also accused the PDF ministers of working against the interest of the Congress.
Upadhyay agreed that the Congress had not inked a deal with its ally (PDF) that its ministers would stay on in the cabinet.
He clarified that the ministers would be retained or dropped in the next reshuffle on the basis of their performance.
“In that connection, the appraisal of ministers’ performance is being carried out at three levels,” Upadhyay said.