With 4 members in, Rajasthan gets lion’s share in the new team

  • Rakesh Goswami, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
  • Updated: Jul 06, 2016 12:13 IST
BJP MP Arjun Ram Meghwal shakes hand with President Pranab Mukherjee during the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet reshuffle. (Sonu Mehta/ HT Photo)

Rajasthan was the biggest winner of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expansion of his council of ministers on Tuesday. The state accounted for four of the 19 new members inducted from nine states — ahead of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat with three each.

The four new entrants are Arjun Ram Meghwal, PP Chaudhary, CR Chaudhary and Vijay Goel.

But Rajasthan’s dominance wasn’t always in the plan. The first list of new ministers had just two names — PP Choudhary and Meghwal, who were included specifically to avoid a backlash from Jats and Dalits as the Centre planned to drop Sanwar Lal Jat (MoS water resources) and Nihalchand (MoS panchayati raj) from the council of ministers.

But the Jat community in Rajasthan was in no mood to relent. It launched a social media campaign and the Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha wrote to the PM saying a community with seven MPs from the state should not be thus ignored in the expansion exercise.

A message was also conveyed to the BJP leadership that PP Chaudhary was not a Jat but a Sirvi.

The pressure worked. CR Choudhary was added to the list — and later, Vijay Goel.

Rajasthan now has six MPs in the PM’s team, led by cabinet minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who was recently elected to the Rajya Sabha from the desert state.

The four new entrants join Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore as ministers of state. Of the four new ministers, three are lawyers — PP Choudhary, Meghwal and Goel.

PP Choudhary was picked for his performance in Parliament, say those close to him. But party sources say he was mistaken for a Jat because of his surname and considered a replacement for the ailing Sanwar Lal Jat.

Dalit leader Meghwal, the BJP’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha known for cycling to Parliament, was also reportedly picked for his caste — to make up for Nihalchand, allegedly dropped for non-performance and not because of a rape case in which he is an accused.

CR Choudhary is said to be close to chief minister Vasundhara Raje and former CM Ashok Gehlot. This is also a comeback of sorts for Goel, earlier removed as the BJP’s Delhi unit chief. He was sent to the upper House from Rajasthan.

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