With a view to rejuvenating party cadres as Punjab heads for a tough political battle in the coming assembly polls, the state BJP is working out a formula to reshuffle its ministerial berths, it is learnt.
The BJP, coalition partner of the SAD in the Punjab government, has four ministers in the cabinet. The reshuffle, which is being discussed behind closed doors for the past one week, is expected to take shape on Friday when state affairs incharge Prabhat Jha meets the party leadership in Chandigarh. The move is being seen as an effort to negate the anti-incumbency factor that the party faces.
The move follows Union minister Vijay Sampla taking over the reins of the state party unit. Sending Sampla, a Dalit leader from Doaba, to lead the saffron party in the state is a clear signal that the high command wants the party to be a tangible force, especially when the Aam Aadmi Party is emerging as a strong contender on the political scene.
Sampla’s elevation as the Union minister and recently as the state unit president shows that the party wants to take along Dalit vote bank, which is 32% of the state population. A reshuffle being done with Sampla at the centrestage is a signal to the cadres that the party wants to enter the poll fray with him as its face in the state.
“I am convening a meeting of party leadership on Friday,” Jha told HT on phone, refusing to comment further. As the political parleys in the state unit of saffron party got hectic with reports of a possible reshuffle, Sampla could not be contacted as his phone was switched off.
Sources in the party said Sampla had got approved a reshuffle formula from the central leadership and the incumbent ministers might be asked to tender resignations on Friday.
The party currently has four ministers--Chunni Lal Bhagat, who is also leader of party’s legislature group, with forests and wildlife preservation and labour portfolios; Madan Mohan Mittal with industries and commerce; Surjit Kumar Jyani with health and family welfare, social security and development of women and children; and Anil Joshi with local government and medical education and research portfolios.
Those in the race to become ministers are Dinesh Babbu, Manoranjan Kalia and Som Parkash. Babbu being the deputy speaker, the party is expected to bring in a new face in his place. The contest is between Bhagat and Som Parkash, both Dalit leaders, as a section of the saffron party wants to replace the former with someone strong as the legislature group leader who can vociferously voice the party’s concerns inside the government and at party fora.
The BJP has 12 MLAs in the Vidhan Sabha of which four are ministers and six are chief parliamentary secretaries. The party reportedly is pondering on the role of Pathankot MLA Ashwini Sharma, who seems to be left out in the reallocation process.