With Assembly elections in the state just a few months away,the Himachal Pradesh cabinet is set for a expansion on Thursday with the induction of former state BJP chief Khimi Ram to fill the lone vacant berth.
Khimi Ram has already resigned as state party president after the BJP central leadership appointed Satpal Singh Satti as new party chief who would formally takeover on February 29.
Yes,there is going to be a cabinet expansion tomorrow at Shimla. One minister will be inducted to fill in the vacancy in the cabinet, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said in Dharamsala.
However,Khimi Ram declined to comment. I am on way to Shimla. Please dont expect me to reveal something,which is a prerogative of the chief minister. I will perform any role assigned to me by the party or Dhumalji, he said.
This would be second expansion of the 50-month-old cabinet after Dhumal was sworn in as the chief minister in December,2007,and three cabinet ministers were added in October 2009.
Later,J P Nadda resigned from the cabinet when he was appointed BJP general secretary and the post of one cabinet minister had not been filled.
There are already 11 ministers in the cabinet while the maximum limit of ministers is 12 as per the Constitution.
Khimi Ram was elected as MLA from Banjjar constituency in Kullu in 2003 and retained his seat in 2007. He was elected Deputy Speaker of the Assembly in January 2008 but resigned from the post on his appointment as state BJP chief in February 2010.
A Dhumal s loyalist,Khimi Ram,had resigned as state party chief two days ago. His resignation has been seen as a part of the major organisational change planned by the BJP president Nitin Gadkari based on the advice of Nadda and Shyam Jaju in view of the revolt in the party and some leaders,led by former state party president Maheshwar Singh,quitting BJP to form their own political outfit.
Induction of Khimi Ram in Cabinet has created ripples in the party with many aspirants,including former BJP president Suresh Bhardwaj,feeling disappointed. Bhardwaj is sitting MLA from Shimla and partys Brahmin face. Ever since Naddas resignation,Dhumal had maintained silence over cabinet expansion even though he had made it clear that the vacancy will be filled up by a Brahmin. Khimi Ram,who hails from Kullu,is also a Brahmin.
Sources said Dhumal may accommodate Bilaspur MLA Randhir Sharma as chief parliamentary secretary to fill the vacancy created by Satti.
Earlier,there was speculation that some ministers may be dropped to accommodate new faces but the chief minister has made it clear that there would no changes except for the addition of Khimi Ram.