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Uttarakhand BJP not upbeat about any MP landing in Union cabinet

The Uttarakhand BJP doesn’t appear hopeful about any of its four remaining parliamentarians being picked for the Union Cabinet on Sunday

dehradun Updated: Sep 01, 2017 20:28 IST
Deep Joshi
Haridwar MP Ramesh Pokhariyal ‘Nishank’ could have found a berth but for the corruption charges, a BJP leader said.
Haridwar MP Ramesh Pokhariyal ‘Nishank’ could have found a berth but for the corruption charges, a BJP leader said. (Hindustan Times)

The Uttarakhand BJP doesn’t appear hopeful about any of its four remaining parliamentarians being picked for the Union Cabinet on Sunday.

The Cabinet reshuffle reports gained credence after half-a-dozen ministers put in their papers late on Thursday night. Those who resigned include Mahendra Nath Pandey, who was moved to Uttar Pradesh for heading the BJP.

The resignations followed amid rumours that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is looking for competent hands as his ministerial colleagues. Analysts feel the move aims to salvage his image which suffered a dent lately for two key factors: a major slowdown in economic growth and the demonetisation gamble having come a cropper.

The possibility a major reshuffle in the Union Cabinet though has evoked a lukewarm response from the BJP’s state unit. That is surprising considering that all the five parliamentarians from Uttarakhand belong to the saffron party. So far, only one of them — Almora MP Ajay Tamta — has got the representation in the Union Cabinet. Prime Minister Modi chose the party’s Dalit face from Uttarakhand during the Cabinet reshuffle he carried out in July last year.

That, many BJP insiders see, as one of the reasons behind a tiny state like Uttarakhand unlikely to get a further representation in the Modi Cabinet. “I don’t think the Prime Minister can afford to induct another local parliamentarian into his Cabinet,” a senior party leader said, adding a major reason behind that is “the small size of our state, which boasts” of just five Lok Sabha seats.

Besides, he added, all other equations too “come in the way of any of our remaining four MPs” landing a Cabinet berth. The four MPs are BC Khanduri (Pauri), Bhagat Singh Koshiyari (Nainital), Ramesh Pokhariyal ‘Nishank’ (Haridwar) and Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah (Tehri). Of these four parliamentarians, Khanduri, Koshiyari and Nishank have helmed the state as former chief ministers. “They are our party veterans yet there is a little likelihood of Modiji inducting them into his Cabinet owing to various factors,” another BJP leader said.

One, he clarified, two former chief ministers — octogenarian Khanduri and former BJP state chief Koshiyari — were out of reckoning due to their advanced age. “They have crossed the age limit of 75 which Modi had set for inducting his party men into the Union Cabinet,” said the BJP leader.

According to him, Nishank, 55, could have stood a chance but his image was sullied by his rivals within the party by playing up corruption charges against him. “As a result, the high command replaced him with Khanduri as the party’s mascot for the 2012 assembly polls,” a former state BJP office bearer said, adding that no corruption charge was proved against Nishank in the court.

Besides, BJP insiders were unanimous that none of the four party MPs including Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah stood the chance to land a Cabinet berth on the criterion of merit. “Modi plans a Cabinet rejig to ensure that his ministers perform efficiently so that he is able to arrest the economic downslide ahead of the next Lok Sabha polls, for which less than two years are left,” a BJP leader said.

Officially, the BJP refused to comment on the issue. “Constitutionally, selecting members of his Cabinet is the Prime Minister’s sole prerogative. So, I can’t make any comment on who he should induct into his Cabinet,” BJP state president Ajay Bhatt told Hindustan Times.