More than three months after it formed the government in Madhya Pradesh with the help of Jyotiraditya Scindia, the BJP on Thursday rewarded the former Congress leader by inducting nine of his main supporters in the council of ministers.
Three other Congress leaders who were part of the 22 MLAs who switched to the BJP to topple the Kamal Nath government also found place in the ministry.
The expansion of Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s cabinet was delayed as the BJP walked the tightrope in choosing among its own leaders, newcomers as mandated by the central leadership of the party, and Congress rebels for whom Scindia bargained hard.
Of the 28 ministers who were inducted on Thursday, only 18 are from the BJP, which has 107 MLAs in the 230-member Assembly. In contrast, as many as 14 of the 22 former Congress rebels have found place in the ministry, including two who were inducted on April 21.
Senior BJP leaders Gopal Bhargava, Bhupendra Singh, Jagdish Devda, and Yashodhara Raje Scindia have made it to the cabinet, along with the relatively junior Vishwas Sarang. But several former ministers, including Rajendra Shukla, Gaurishankar Bisen, and Rampal Singh have been left out. BJP leader Arvind Bhadoriya, who allegedly played an active role in engineering the rebellion in the Congress, has been made a cabinet minister.
Within hours of the expansion, there were protests by supporters of ministerial aspirants such as Indore MLA Ramesh Mendola, a confidant of BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, and Mandsaur MLA Yashpal Singh Sisodiya.
Chouhan spent two days in Delhi to convince the party high command of the need to include some senior BJP leaders in the ministry, and the negotiations continued in Bhopal until late on Wednesday. In the end, Chouhan expressed his disappointment through the allegory of having to drink the poison from the manthan, while someone else got the nectar.
Thursday’s expansion took the number of ministers to 34, including Chouhan. The party had wanted to keep a few berths vacant, but demands from various camps, and especially Scindia, have left no scope for further expansion.
Byelections will be held for 24 seats – 22 were won by the Congress rebels who resigned, and two were held by MLAs who died before the political crisis began for the previous government. An unusually high number of 14 ministers will contest to be able to stay in office.
Most of these seats are in the Gwalior-Chambal region, where Scindia wields clout. In the elections held in December 2018, when Scindia was with the Congress, the BJP could win only one of these 24 seats.
“For the first time in history, a council of ministers has 14 members who are not legislators. Is it not a mockery of constitutional systems? It’s a joke on the people,’’ Kamal Nath said.
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