Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje inducted 15 new ministers to her team Monday following months of deliberations with the Center. Raje managed to have her way by keeping out her dissentors from the list and threw up quite a few surprises.
Rajpal Singh (MLA from Jhotwara), Kiran Maheshwari (Rajsamand), Surendra Goyal (Jaitaran) and Dr Rampratap (Hanumangarh) were sworn in as state cabinet ministers by Governor Kalyan Singh. Amra Ram (Pachpadra), Krishnendra Kaur (Nadbai), Vasudev Devnani (Ajmer North), Rajkumar Rinwa (Ratangarh), Surendra Pal Singh (Karanpur) and Anita Bhadel (Ajmer South) were sworn in as Ministers of State (Independent charge). Four ministers – Pushpendra Singh (Bali), Babu Lal Verma (Kesheorapatan) , Arjun Lal (Bilara) and Otaram Dewasi (Sirohi) – were inducted as MoS. Jeetmal Khat (Banswara), who missed the oath taking ceremony in the afternoon, arrived in the state capital later in the day and was administered oath as a minister in the evening.
Even as Raje attempted social engineering in her cabinet revamp, her cautious tiptoeing around her dissentors was evident. Senior legislators whose names were doing the rounds such as Ghanshyam Tiwari, Narpat Singh Rajvi and Rao Rajendra Singh were given a miss. Tiwari, a vocal dissentor of Raje, was being backed by the RSS and had caused much rift between Raje and the Center. Tiwari, former education minister, had won with a whopping majority of over 68,000 votes. Rajvi and Rao, both senior leaders, too did not manage to win Raje’s favour.
Raje was working with a lean team of 12 ministers including herself since the BJP government came to power in December. Raje herself held 47 portfolios that had led to major backlog of work in several departments. The ruling government also got embroiled in a controversy as former legislator Sanwar Lal Jat, who was elected as Member of Parliament from Ajmer defeating former Congress union minister Sachin Pilot, continued to hold a cabinet portfolio even after vacating his assembly seat. The state government was on the brink of a constitutional crisis as Jat who sought a special provision to continue holding his portfolio for six months from vacating his assembly seat, would have lost the privilege by November end. The state cabinet would have then come down to 11 ministers leading to a constitutional crisis. The state cabinet has to comprise at least 12 percent of the total assembly strength which is 12 for Rajasthan (200 seats).
Following the expansion, the Raje government now has a total of 26 ministers including the CM. A meeting of the new cabinet was called late on Monday evening to discuss the portfolios that are yet to be announced. Jat’s exit is now on the cards.
Raje had postponed her cabinet expansion till the parliamentary elections in May promising to reward legislators who helped in realizing her Mission 25 to sweep all the parliamentary seats. However after the general elections, Raje failed to arrive at a consensus with the Center on the names proposed by her in the new team. The party central leadership was busy with the assembly polls in Haryana and Maharasthtra and Raje could not manage an appointment with the top leaders leading to further delay.