The Uttarakhand unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping that at least two parliamentarians from the state will find representation in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expected revamp of his council of ministers likely on Sunday.
Although the party swept all five Lok Sabha seats in the state, none of its MPs found a place in Modi’s government after it came to power in May, leading to discontent in the party’s state unit.
In the last NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, two state leaders had been made ministers.
This time around, party leaders are hoping, two of their MPs will find a place in Modi’s government.
“Though cabinet expansion is the prerogative of (the) prime minister, we are hoping that Modiji will consider the love voters showered for BJP in the hill state,” said Tirath Singh Rawat, state BJP president.
While Rawat did not specify any candidates, BJP sources said of the five party MPs, former chief minister BS Koshiyari from Nainital stood a good chance of being included in the Union government.
“Koshiyari … has a clean image and is still in his 70s,” said a state BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.
The other three MPs in the race for ministerial berths are former chief minister Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank (Haridwar), Mala Rajyalakshmi Shah, (Tehri) and Ajay Tamta (Almora).
BC Khanduri, former chief minister as well as a minister in Vajpayee’s last government, is probably no longer in the race for a cabinet berth as he had already been appointed as the defence committee chairman, party insiders said. Besides, he is already 80.
However, Uttarakhand’s claim to a ministerial berth could see some strong challenge from neighbouring Himachal Pradesh which too gave all four of its seats Lok Sabha seats to the BJP.
Shanta Kumar, a former union minister, defeated Himachal chief minister Virbhandra Singh’s wife by a record margin from the Mandi seat. The BJP’s youth leader, Anurag Thakur, also won from Himachal.
“Three ex-CM(s) from Uttarakhand are in fray but Shanta Kumar from Himachal also has (a) strong lobby in his favour,” commented a BJP leader.
The discontent in the state BJP over the exclusion of its MPs from the Union government is also partly blamed for the party’s defeat in by-elections in Uttarakhand.
“So, we suggested (to) our central leadership that it was necessary to include at least two of our five MPs in the Union cabinet whenever its next expansion would take place”, a BJP leader said.