The Rajasthan council of minister resigned en masse on Tuesday as a show of confidence in the leadership of chief minister Ashok Gehlot who is battling several political crises.
Gehlot had summoned all his ministers for an emergency meeting at the CMO in Jaipur. In the meeting, the entire council of ministers tendered their resignation to the chief minister paving the way for a revamp.
There are 12 cabinet ministers and 13 ministers of state in the government. Of these, 22 submitted their resignations in the meeting. Ministers Golma Devi and Ramlal Jat have already submitted resignations to Gehlot. Three of the six parliamentary secretaries also resigned.
Jat, who resigned on Saturday after allegations over the suspicious death of the wife of the Bhilwara Dairy chairman, did not attend the meeting. Also missing was Tourism minister Bina Kak, who was out of Jaipur.
After the three-hour meeting, home minister Shanti Dhariwal told media that the ministers had resigned to repose their faith in the chief minister and allow him a free hand in reconstitution of his council of ministers. He denied there was any political crisis in the government.
Dhariwal said the chief minister had met the party high command several times and they had given some directions.
"In light of that, all the ministers collectively decided to tender their resignations to repose faith and express confidence in the leadership of chief minister Ashok Gehlot so that he can strongly say before the party high command in New Delhi that his team is with him," said Dhariwal.
Asked if AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi was unhappy with Gehlot, Dhariwal quipped, "If Rahul Gandhi is angry, can anyone stay?"
The Bhanwari Devi kidnap case and the Gopalgarh firing have put Rajasthan politics on the boil for the past two months. There has been speculation of a cabinet reshuffle that was only strengthened with the chief minister’s frequent visits to Delhi.
The challenge before Gehlot will be to balance the Jats and the Muslims. While the Muslims are angry with the government’s handling of the Gopalgarh issue, the Jats, a significant votebank in Rajasthan, are unhappy over removal and suspension from the party of former minister Mahipal Maderna for the sleaze CD allegedly featuring him and Bhanwari Devi and his alleged role in Bhanwari Devi’s disappearance.
Dhariwal said that as per the directions of the high command or as per the chief minister’s prerogative, the reconstitution of the council of ministers would happen soon. The new council of ministers is expected to be sworn in after November 18 when President Pratibha Patil ends her visit to the state, sources said.
Jat is the third minister in the Gehlot government to leave office this year after Maderna and minister of state for rural development and Waqf Amin Khan, who resigned for unsavoury remarks on President Pratibha Patil in February.