Kejriwal springs cabinet surprise, Sisodia likely to be deputy CM

  • Darpan Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 12, 2015 21:24 IST

Four ministers from its brief rule last year might not find room in the new Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi but chief minister-designate Arvind Kejriwal is expected to retain two of his trusted lieutenants, sources said on Thursday.

Patparganj legislator Manish Sisodia, known in political circles as 46-year-old Kejriwal’s all-weather shadow, is tipped to get the deputy chief minister’s post while former health minister Satyendra Jain has an excellent chance to make the cut again.

Sources said journalist-turned-activist Sisodia would be made the Number 2 in the government so that AAP chief Kejriwal could divert his energy on taking the party beyond Delhi by drawing on the massive mandate in the Capital.

The AAP won 67 seats in the 70-member assembly on Tuesday, leaving just three for its main contender the BJP.

The party’s list of ministers sent to the governor reportedly has first-time legislators Jitendra Tomar of Tri Nagar, Gopal Rai from Babarpur, Sandeep Kumar of Sultanpuri Majra and Matia Mahal’s Asim Ahmed Khan — the sole minority face in the ministry.

“It’s a problem of plenty. It’s a massive mandate. We have MLAs from all sections of society. The challenge is to ensure fair representation with competence,” said a party strategist.

The Delhi government has the provision for just six ministers.

The Kejriwal cabinet could be without a woman minister, though.

But its women’s wing chief, Shalimar Bagh MLA Bandana Kumar, is likely to be elected as the deputy speaker. She will be assisting Ram Niwas Goel, the legislator for Shahdara who is the first choice for the speaker’s post.

Former ministers Somnath Bharti, Rakhi Birla, the party’s Dalit face Girish Soni and Saurabh Bhardwaj were unlikely to be retained, sources said.

Bharti has been the AAP’s most controversial face after he led a vigilante raid to bust a suspected sex racket in a south Delhi neighbourhood where mostly Africans were living on rent. Kejriwal had a hard time protecting his law minister from the media and public outrage following the raid.

Birla, too, had put the party in a spot with some controversial actions.

Sisodia said the focus this time would be to provide a trustworthy government to make Delhi the country’s first corruption-free city. “We will fulfill the needs of the people. We will complete what we couldn’t in our previous innings.”

Sisodia was the minister of education, PWD, urban development and local bodies in the 49-day AAP government straddling 2013 and 2014.

The journalist-turned-activist is expected to deliver a better school system in his new stint.

Former health minister Jain, who was known for his surprise checks in government hospitals during the AAP’s short rule, has been associated with Kejriwal from the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption agitation.

He said the plan was to work towards fulfilling the promises made in the manifesto. “It is our guiding light because it has been made after a lot of consideration and planning,” he said.

Kejriwal will take oath on Saturday at Ramlila Maidan, the sprawling ground which witnessed the peak of the anti-corruption agitation and his maiden swearing-in as chief minister.

An estimated 100,000 people attended that event in December 2013, when the AAP made history winning 28 seats in its maiden election. A much larger crowd is expected this time around, given the staggering mandate.

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