After over a week of uncertainty induced by rebellion, crisis for the Congress-led coalition government in Uttarakhand subsided for the time being on Tuesday following expansion of the cabinet."
Chief minister Vijay Bahuguna yielded four of the 10 cabinet berths to loyalists of sulking union minister Harish Rawat, apart from including two independent MLAs and one each from the BSP and the UKD who helped the Congress gain majority in the assembly. The new ministerial team seemingly does not have a Bahuguna loyalist. This could pose challenges ahead for the chief minister, a former high court judge.
Rawat, the minister of state for agriculture, skipped the swearing-in ceremony at the Dr BR Ambedkar Sports Stadium. Governor Margaret Alva administered the oath of office to the ministers.
Rawat, the Haridwar MP, and 17 MLAs loyal to him, dug in their heels after the Congress top leadership chose Tehri MP Bahuguna for the CM’s post. Rawat and his supporters had stayed away from Bahuguna’s swearing-in on March 13.
Sources said the process of government formation began rolling only after the Congress leadership agreed to many of Rawat’s conditions.
Of the ministers sworn in, at least four — Preetam Singh, Surendra Singh Negi, Indira Hridayesh and Dinesh Aggrawal — are seen as Rawat loyalists.
Pauri MP Satpal Maharaj’s wife Amrita Rawat bagged a ministerial berth. Independent MLA Mantri Prasad Naithani who was sworn in is perceived to be a Maharaj backer.
Three others — state Congress president Yashpal Arya, independent MLA Harish Chandra Durgapal and Preetam Panwar of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal-Progressive — are have no leanings towards any camp.
Surendra Rakesh, the BSP MLA who made the ministerial cut, is loyal only to party chief minister Mayawati.