In the first Cabinet reshuffle in her third term as the chief minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit made major changes in portfolios to her council of ministers on Wednesday.
She also replaced her old loyalist Mangat Ram Singhal with her close aide and three-time MLA Ramakant Goswami.
Goswami was given the oath of office by Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna at a small ceremony at the LG House on Wednesday morning. Goswami would handle industry, labour and elections department.
“The idea is to bring fresh air into the Cabinet with a fresh face. Our commitment to the people and to the work we are doing remains as it is. While carrying out the exercise (cabinet reshuffle), care has been taken to ensure continuity,” Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit said.In a move which is being seen as a "message to her detractors", Dikshit wrested key departments such as finance, planning, urban development, and land and building from her senior-most minister Ashok Kumar Walia and redistributed the remaining portfolios among all ministers.
While keeping finance and planning to herself, Dikshit allocated urban development and land building to Rajkumar Chauhan.
Sources said most MLAs were critical of the way Walia was handling the regularisation process of 1639 unauthorised colonies, which cost him his job. Some MLAs had openly targeted Walia during the five-day open session Dikshit had held with the MLAs in January this year. Walia has always been known as number two in the Cabinet and sources said divesting him of finance and urban development would reduce his influence. Walia, however, managed to get revenue and health departments. Sources said Walia had efficiently managed health department during the second innings of the Congress and had opened several new hospitals in Delhi. Sources said Dikshit was not happy the way Kiran Walia handled health department. Dikshit also entrusted more responsibility to Haroon Yusuf by giving the department of power to him.
Arvinder Singh emerged as the only minister who remained untouched in the reshuffle. Sources said Singh will continue to hold important departments such as education and transport.
However, the reshuffle has not gone down too well with some senior Congress MLAs, who were eyeing this reshuffle as their last chance to make it to the Cabinet.
Replacing a ‘Baniya’ minister with one more ‘Punjabi’ has also disturbed the caste combination in the Cabinet, sources said.