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Ahead of Shah’s visit: Pressure on U’khand CM to expand cabinet

With BJP chief Amit Shah slated to visit Dehradun on June 24, pressure is building on chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat to seek a go-ahead from him for distribution of minister-level posts among party workers ahead of the 2019 general elections

dehradun Updated: Jun 18, 2018 22:09 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat. (HT Photo)

With BJP chief Amit Shah slated to visit Dehradun on June 24, pressure is building on chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat to seek a go-ahead from him for distribution of minister-level posts among party workers ahead of the 2019 general elections.

BJP MLAs have also decided to take up with Shah the issue of Rawat “deferring” the long overdue expansion of his 10-member cabinet, party insiders said on Monday.

The resentment has been brewing among them as the chief minister is yet to fill two cabinet berths laying vacant since the BJP formed its government in the state in 2017.

The problem began after Rawat did not induct some very senior BJP MLAs and former ministers into his cabinet. Another reason behind their resentment was Rawat’s failure to strike regional and caste balance in his cabinet.

For instance, it continues to be heavily skewed in favour of Thakurs with four community members including the chief minister, in the cabinet.

Incidentally, they all belonged to Garhwal whereas the Thakur community in Kumaon went unrepresented in the cabinet. Besides, all of them belonging to just one district (Pauri) in Garhwal only ended up adding to the resentment among the ruling party MLAs.

Equally unhappy were said to be the BJP workers on being ignored for the minister-level posts despite the party’s thumping victory in the assembly polls.

But neither the BJP workers nor its MLAs came out in the open against Rawat owing to the party enjoying an “unprecedented” three-fourth majority in the House. Another reason behind their “uneasy silence” was the former RSS pracharak enjoying the solid backing of the party brass including BJP chief Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The patience of BJP workers and legislators though seems to have started wearing thin. “It’s been nearly one-and-a-half years since those two Cabinet berths are lying vacant.“How long shall we wait?” said one of the party’s Thakur leaders belonging to Kumaon. “The non-representation of the Kumaoni Thakurs in the cabinet will end up alienating the community, which will hurt the party’s base in that region in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” he warned.

Former BJP president Bishan Singh Chuphal said the issue of the two cabinet berths lying vacant will be conveyed to the party chief (Shah) through its state leadership.

In a recent interview with HT, former minister and Didihat MLA Chuphal raised a strong objection to the party workers not being distributed minister-level posts.

“It has already been nearly one-and-a-half-years since our party came to power. How long will you make the party workers wait?” he had said.

According to him, distributing minister-level responsibilities among them just a year before the next assembly elections will serve no purpose.

“It will instead be a futile exercise as they will not be able to utilise their positions for the welfare of the public and party supporters”, Chuphal said. “Besides, our party workers will not be motivated enough to campaign for the party for the next Lok Sabha polls.”

Pushkar Singh Kala, a senior state BJP leader and a former RSS worker, said distribution of minister-level posts will “also lead to the decentralisation of administration, which help shore up” the party’s mass base.

“Our legislators and ministers have a limited reach,” he said. “If power is further delegated to workers, it will benefit the people at the Nyay panchayat and village levels, which will benefit our party in all coming elections.”

BJP state in-charge Shaym Jaju said Shah was coming to the state “as part of his countrywide visit aimed at strengthening the party organisationally” ahead of the 2019 assembly polls.

“However, while interacting with party workers he will also listen to their demands for cabinet expansion or minister-level posts etc,” he said.

BJP state unit chief Ajay Bhatt said it is not possible to distribute minister-level posts among thousands of workers. “However, some of them may get those positions this year,” he said.

First Published: Jun 18, 2018 22:09 IST