CM Arvind Kejriwal set to keep his Cabinet unchanged
Two senior party leaders said that the AAP wanted to signal continuity by not shuffling the Cabinet, particularly since the mandate was secured on the back of a successful stint in office.Updated: Feb 13, 2020 00:09 IST
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi is set to repeat all its ministers in the Cabinet led by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in its third term, senior party leaders indicated on Wednesday, adding that the CM, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, and the five other ministers will take the oath of office and secrecy in a grand ceremony at the Ramlila Maidan on Sunday.
The other ministers likely to be sworn in by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal on February 16 are Satyendar Jain, who may retain the urban development, PWD and power portfolios; Gopal Rai, who was the labour minister in the previous term; Kailash Gahlot, who was the environment, transport and law minister; Rajendra Pal Gautam, who was the social welfare minister, and Imran Hussain, who held the food and civil supplies portfolios.
There was some speculation over the inclusion of prominent first-time MLAs Atishi and Raghav Chadha, who won from the Kalkaji and Rajendra Nagar seats respectively, as the AAP made history by winning 62 out of 70 seats on Tuesday in the assembly elections — just five short of its staggering 2015 tally. But two senior party leaders said that the AAP wanted to signal continuity by not shuffling the Cabinet, particularly since the mandate was secured on the back of a successful stint in office, in which the government’s work on schools, health care, and power and water subsidies, was appreciated by the electorate.
In 2015, when the AAP won 67 seats, the swearing-in ceremony was held, also at the Ramlila Maidan, on February 14.
Addressing a press briefing earlier on Wednesday, Sisodia said the party decided to shift the date of the oath-taking ceremony from February 14 to February 16 this time so that it could make the necessary arrangements. “We invite everyone in Delhi to attend the swearing-in event. The party is also mobilising people and all candidates have been asked to invite residents form their respective constituencies. So, this will need some time,” he said.
The Ramlila Maidan was also at the heart of the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement led by Anna Hazare in 2011, when Kejriwal come into prominence as one of the prime movers of an agitation for an anti-corruption ombudsman.
Kejriwal formed the AAP the following year, in September 2012.
It was not immediately clear if the AAP would invite senior non-BJP leaders from other states — as has become the norm in swearing-in ceremonies of late at a time when the Opposition is trying to display a united front against the ruling National Democratic Alliance NDA.
A senior leader of the AAP, who asked not to be named, said that Kejriwal was likely to retain the water portfolio, which means he will continue to be the chairperson of the Delhi Jal Board. Sisodia, in all likelihood, is going to keep the education and finance departments. He will also continue to remain Delhi’s deputy CM.
“While conveying his decision to retain all the ministers, Kejriwal made it clear that people of Delhi voted for the work done by the AAP government in the past five years. So, in no way should the ongoing schemes and projects and those that are in the pipeline be affected by a change in the political executive,” said a second party leader on condition of anonymity, after a meeting at the CM’s residence between Kejriwal and all the newly elected MLAs.
Only seven ministers, including the chief minister, can be appointed in Delhi as per stipulations that restrict the size of the Cabinet to 10% of the size of the assembly.
Earlier in the day, Kejriwal went to meet L-G Anil Baijal, with whom the AAP government had several run-ins over the last three years over approval for issues such as CCTV cameras, and transfers and appointments of bureaucrats.
“Kejriwal met the L-G today and submitted the AAP’s proposal to form the government in Delhi. Besides, he also held a meeting with all newly elected MLAs of the AAP at his residence in the morning. The MLAs unanimously elected him (Kejriwal) as the leader of legislative party, which is a formality necessary to stake claim to form a government,” Sisodia said.
Since Delhi is a Union Territory, and parts of its administration come under the Centre, the L-G will now write to the President through the ministry of home affairs apprising him that the AAP has won a majority in the elections, and that it is eligible to form the government in Delhi.
The President will then issue a warrant appointing the AAP’s legislative party leader as the chief minister.
The oath-taking ceremony can be held once this procedure is complete, senior officials in the government said.