Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das is likely to expand his cabinet in the third week of February, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sources said on Saturday, as the government appeared to buy time to stabilise itself after a slender victory in the assembly elections.
A state BJP spokesman said a cabinet expansion was unlikely before the Delhi assembly polls as many party leaders were busy campaigning in the national capital.
The delay has sparked speculations that the government was trying to bolster its thin majority in the assembly first, possibly by luring away opposition legislators with the promise of ministerial berths.
“It is sending out (a) wrong signal. We have taken it up with the governor, he should take measures immediately,” said Leader of the Opposition and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) vice president Hemant Soren.
After taking oath on December 28 last year, Das had said he would expand his ministry soon. Later he said it would be done after the Republic Day.
In a letter to Governor Syed Ahmed, Soren said the BJP had spoken of “constitutional invalidity” of his government when he delayed the cabinet expansion in July 2013. He said the same argument should hold good for Das’ government now.
Echoing the JMM, state Congress president Sukhdeo Bhagat called on Ahmed and asked him to step in to set right the constitutional issues. He underlined that the delay in cabinet expansion violated constitutional provisions under section 164 (1).
“There is a constitutional crisis in the state and the ruling party is also engaged in horse trading luring legislators from the opposition camp,” Bhagat said in the letter to the governor, adding that the BJP is preoccupied with ensuring the longevity of its government, stalling the development of the state.
The BJP is also in touch with a few congress and RJD MLAs. Earlier, it wanted to rope in the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (P), offering it two ministerial berths. But JVM (P) chief Babulal Marandi backed out, rejecting the merger proposal floated by BJP president Amit Shah.
Das is also faced with AJSU Party’s demand for one more ministerial berth. AJSU Party chief Sudesh Mahto said, “We are certainly hoping that we will get one more ministerial berth against six supporting party MLAs. It could be either KK Bhagat or Ramchandra Sahish, we are yet to get a clear view.”
The opposition had rattled the government on the last day of the special assembly during the division of votes on a cut motion opposing the supplementary budget. The Raghubar Das government scraped through by three votes.