Two berths still vacant, aspirants mount pressure on Rawat to expand Cabinet
BJP state president Ajay Bhatt denied that the CM was under pressure from the disgruntled party legislators. “There is no substance in such reports. Ours is a party where nobody can get anything by resorting to pressure tactics,” he said. “Two berths have been left vacant for that reason only.”dehradun Updated: Jun 03, 2017 21:27 IST
DEHRADUN: Less than three months after he took charge, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat is likely to expand his council of ministers “anytime soon” amid reports that dissatisfaction is brewing among a section of BJP legislators desperately eyeing the two “crucial” cabinet berths lying vacant.
This comes amid rumours that some 26 of the total 57 ruling party MLAs had a closed-door meeting here recently at a hotel on the city outskirts. The government’s spokesperson and minister Madan Kaushik also didn’t rule out the possibility of the CM carrying out a Cabinet expansion.
Rawat and nine others, including seven Cabinet ministers and two ministers of state, were sworn in on March 18 after the BJP’s landslide win in the assembly election. The party won with four-fifth majority raising senior BJP legislators’ expectations of landing a Cabinet berth.
They were left disappointed.
Some BJP veterans like eight-time MLA and former Speaker Harbans Kapoor openly articulated their disappointment. His supporters even took to the roads demanding that their leader be inducted into the Cabinet. “It hurts”, a soft-spoken Kapoor had admitted when HT sought his reaction on being ignored for the Cabinet berth.
Another party veteran and five-time MLA from Didihat had also expressed disappointment. The general complaint among those left out was that the Rawat Cabinet was heavily skewed in favour of Garhwal, a region he hails from. He was also accused of ignoring Kumaon’s Thakur community as well as young legislators from that region. Party insiders and disgruntled legislators felt Rawat could “have easily struck” a balance in regional and caste equations by filling the remaining two berths. “The Cabinet can have 15% of the total legislators as its members, as per the constitutional provisions”, said BJP state vice president Jyoti Prasad Gairola. “Since our party has a total of 57 legislators we can have a 12-member Cabinet including the CM.”
The BJP legislators have once again started mounting pressure on Rawat to fill the vacant seats. The closed door meeting is being seen in that context. Although party insiders remained tight lipped, Harbans Kapoor said, “it could be a proper time” for Cabinet expansion. “Inducting two new faces at this stage would help infuse enthusiasm among the BJP workers,” he said.
Kapoor, however, added that expanding or reshuffling the Cabinet is the CM’s prerogative.
Contacted, Kaushik said, “The chief minister may take such a call in consultation with the party high command.” The minister, however, added that some 24 ministerial berths were also vacant in Uttar Pradesh and similar was the case with other BJP ruled states like Haryana.
BJP state president Ajay Bhatt denied that the CM was under pressure from the disgruntled party legislators. “There is no substance in such reports. Ours is a party where nobody can get anything by resorting to pressure tactics,” he said.
“Two berths have been left vacant for that reason only,” Bhatt further said when asked if the next expansion would help balance caste and regional imbalances.