With the Delhi government shifting to top gear to keep its big-ticket election promises, the Cabinet is getting reinforcements from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the form of MLAs and backroom strategists.
About 15 MLAs will have their work stations in the secretariat and work closely with the six ministers. AAP wants to groom the legislators and and give them exposure of administrative work to build a second line of leadership.
“This is one of the several proposals being considered by the government. With such a mandate comes big responsibilities. We need such assistance in implementing our manifesto. About 40 MLAs are first-timers. They need to learn the procedures,” said a member of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s team. AAP insists the induction of MLAs will not be any burden on the exchequer.
Apart from the MLAs, former journalist Ashish Khetan and lead researcher Roshan Shankar, who were part of AAP’s pre-election reach-out campaign Delhi Dialogue to prepare the party’s 70-point manifesto, are working on the implementation of various government policies from the Delhi secretariat.
AAP’s key strategist Ashish Talwar has his office in the secretariat. Ankit Lal is working on the government’s image and presence in social media, while Aswathi Murlidharan, who has been managing Kejriwal’s meeting schedules, has migrated from the party to the government.
“The NCT of Delhi Act says there can be only six (excluding the CM) ministers, but there is no cap on the number of MLAs and others to assist the ministers. There are more than 30 departments, and ministers need political and strategic working hands,” said a government sources.
Every minister will have 2-3 MLAs attached with them. Their official positions are still being worked out. Some of them could be called parliamentary secretaries.
Unprecedented strength in the House and ruthless scrutiny by a portfolio-free chief minister mean that the six ministers who make up the Delhi cabinet cannot afford to slip-up and will constantly have to improve their performance. AAP’s previous 49-day government too had a similar seven-member cabinet, but the possibility of new faces entering the cabinet was relatively less as the party had 28 MLAs in the 70-member House.
The current assembly has an unprecedented 67 AAP MLAs of whom 60 are out of the cabinet. The party plans to use this huge number to keep the ministers on their toes, “not letting them take their places for granted”.
Kejriwal, who held power, finance and vigilance portfolios with him in his last stint, has said he would “regularly monitor the work of all ministers and MLAs and hold them accountable”.