Chief minister Harish Rawat on Monday “dropped” minister Amrita Rawat from his cabinet replacing her with Independent MLA Dinesh Dhanai, in what is being seen as the maiden fallout of the ruling Congress’ complete decimation in the Lok Sabha election in the state.
Dhanai was administered the oath of secrecy by governor Aziz Qureshi at a brief function held here at Raj Bhawan. An MLA from Tehri, Dhanai belongs to the seven-member Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), an ally of the Harish Rawat-led minority Congress government.
Amrita, however, continues to be the ruling Congress MLA. She was dropped from the cabinet in the wake of her husband and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Satpal Maharaj’s persistent demand that chief minister Rawat resign owning responsibility for the Congress’ complete rout in the LS elections.
It may be noted that Maharaj, a former Congress MP from Pauri, joined the BJP in the wake of the Lok Sabha elections giving a rude jolt to the ruling party.
The chief minister, however, chose to remain ambivalent when queried by reporters after the oath taking ceremony if he dropped state tourism minister Amrita from his 11-member cabinet. “Well, whatever decision I took was strictly in keeping with the constitutional provisions,” he said. “She continues to remain an honourable member of our party,” the CM said when reminded about Amrita’s allegation that the insulting manner in which he (CM) dropped her from the cabinet was an insult to all the women in the state and they would pay him back in the same coin.
Sources, however, said the former state tourism minister was dropped after she chose not to submit her resignation ignoring the CM’s instructions. “The CM contacted her (Amrita Rawat) on Sunday and asked her to submit her resignation as cabinet minister by 2pm today (Tuesday),” a source said. “The decision to drop her followed after she ignored the CM’s directions and instead rushed to Delhi today morning,” he added.
Rawat’s decision to replace Amrita with Dhanai was, however, a well calculated move. The decision was taken amid strong buzz doing the rounds that the PDF might withdraw support to the minority Rawat government at the instance of the BJP. The grapevine has it that the saffron party is just waiting in the wings to form its government with the PDF support following the ruling Congress’ complete rout in the LS polls.
Congress insiders said Rawat had kept his flock together before he dropped Amrita from the cabinet. As part of the move, he recently distributed the lal battis (cabinet responsibilities) among most of the 26 of a total of 33 Congress MLAs. Seven of these (Congress MLAs) are already ministers in the Rawat cabinet. By inducting Dhanai the CM has left no excuse for the seven-member PDF to withdraw support to his government.
Thanks to the PDF support, the Rawat government faces no threat as of now. The reason: the total number of the MLAs supporting it is 40, which is four more than the minimum number of 36 MLAs required for the government to survive.
“So, the Rawat government won’t be in danger even if Amrita chooses to quit our party,” said a state Congress leader who did not wish to be identified.