Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet expansion has hit a roadblock with Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren eyeing the Chief Minister’s slot in Jharkhand — for the creation of which he led a protracted movement spanning over three decades.
The BJP tried to lure Soren out of the UPA before Singh’s July 22 trust vote with an offer to make him CM. The deal fell through when three of his five Lok Sabha MPs refused to cross over.
Meanwhile, the Congress is trying to talk Soren into accepting a Union Cabinet berth; he had resigned from the Cabinet after a court verdict — since overturned — in a murder case in 2006.
If the JMM chief agrees, a Minister of State (MoS) from the Congress’s quota will also make way for his nominee. “We have already identified the junior Congress minister who will step down to accommodate Soren’s candidate,” sources told the Hindustan Times. They couldn’t say if the same formula will be applied in case the Samajwadi Party joins the government.
The 91st Amendment to the Constitution in 2004 limits the size of the Union Council of Ministers to 15 per cent of the 545-member Lok Sabha. So, the Congress and its other UPA allies will have to make room for the SP in Singh’s ministerial team that exhausted the legally permissible quota of 81 in the April 2008 expansion.
The Congress has sound political reasoning to offer the JMM ministerial berths in Delhi. In Jharkhand, while CM Madhu Koda is willing to demit office, Soren isn’t acceptable to several Independent MLAs without whose support the UPA will lose its jerrybuilt majority in the state assembly.
Irrigation Minister Kamlesh Singh, elected on an NCP ticket, is also opposed to Koda’s removal. “As for Guruji, we treat him as a guardian of the government,” he said. Rural Development Minister Enos Ekka and Urban Development Minister Harinarayan Rai feel likewise as they are worried that with Soren at the helm, their clout in the government will dwindle.
Inputs by Subhash Pathak from Ranchi