Shivraj Singh’s 5-member ‘mini-cabinet’ takes oath in Madhya Pradesh

Shivraj Singh’s 5-member ‘mini-cabinet’ takes oath in Madhya Pradesh

Exactly a month after Kamal Nath-led Congress government collapsed in Madhya Pradesh, a five-member ‘mini-cabinet’ of BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan took oath at the Raj Bhavan on Tuesday noon.

As expected, two of the powerful loyalists of ex-union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, Tulsiram Silawat and Govind Rajput, were inducted in the cabinet along with three ex-ministers of the BJP–Narottam Mishra, Kamal Patel and Meena Singh.

Silawat and Rajput, who had resigned from their membership of the state assembly during the political mayhem last month, will have to get re-elected within six months from Tuesday to be able to continue with their ministerial berths.

Though there is no official word yet on the division of portfolios, each of the five ministers are likely to get multiple responsibilities with home department likely to go to Narottam Mishra, health department either to Silawat or Patel, revenue and most likely urban administration to Rajput, women and child development and SC/ST welfare to Meena Singh. Chouhan might himself retain some important portfolios, sources say.

The mini-cabinet, which was constituted after the BJP faced a lot of criticism for not giving a full government in the state during a critical time precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, carries a stamp of the central leadership of the BJP rather than the choice of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, political watchers feel.

Similarly, Jyotiraditya Scindia, who wanted all six former ministers of Kamal Nath cabinet to be inducted, had to hold back his wish list after long drawn consultations with the BJP’s central leadership. So, political watchers say, both Scindia and Chouhan, have been balanced out as of now by the party seniors.

“The fact that names of Chouhan’s close aides like ex-home ministers Bhupendra Singh and Rampal Singh and Ater MLA Arvind Singh Bhadoria, who played an important role in the coup that saw 24 Congress MLAs switch sides to the BJP, indicates that the central leadership of BJP held complete sway in matter of cabinet constitution,” political analyst Manish Dixit said.

There has been an effort to balance the different geo-political regions, caste and gender equations in the five-member cabinet. But the fact that the number of ministers were kept so limited is also indicative of the fact that the BJP is facing the heat of internal disputes over the division of ministerial berths in the state, political watchers further say.

Senior aspirants like former ministers of the Kamal Nath cabinet, including Imarti Devi, Mahendra Singh Sisodia, Prabhuram Chaudhary and Pradyumna Singh Tomar, Bisahulal Singh and Aidal Singh Kansana (who left the Congress for not being given a ministerial berth), Rajvardhan Dattigaon of Scindia camp, ex-minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia, national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya’s confidante Ramesh Mendola and others have been put on the hold for ministerial berths as of now.

The opposition Congress has said the ‘half-baked’ council of ministers will pull Madhya Pradesh into a disaster in the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. Former minister and Congress media cell chief Jitu Patwari has questioned why 28 ministers could not be sworn in if five could be inducted? “Actually it is because of the internal dispute in the BJP that Madhya Pradesh is not able to get a full-fledged cabinet,” Patwari tweeted.

It is also being pointed out that Gopal Bhargava–a powerful name in the Bundelkhand region–might be the first former leader of opposition in any state who was not made a minister when the government of the particular party was formed. Patwari has taken a jibe on this issue too, saying, “Today, the seniority and ineligibility of Gopal Bhargava came to the fore.” Bhargava could not be contacted for comments.

Balancing act

The five-member cabinet has been balanced with two leaders of general category–Mishra and Rajput–who also represent the important Gwalior-Chambal and Bundelkhand regions respectively, scheduled caste leader Tulsiram Silawat who represents Malwa region, woman and scheduled tribe leader Meena Singh from Vindhya region and OBC leader Kamal Patel from central Madhya Pradesh.

Narottam Mishra, 60, a powerful Brahmin leader representing Datia constituency in the Gwalior Chambal region and five-time MLA, was among the names that were circulating for the post of chief minister when the fall of the Congress government looked imminent in the state. He has been a minister in all the three previous tenures of the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh and played a very crucial role in toppling the Kamal Nath government.

Kamal Patel, 58, was a former revenue and medical education minister, and despite a loss in 2013 assembly polls from Harda constituency, holds a big sway in the party. Meena Singh, a four-time MLA representing Manpur constituency in Umariya is said to be close to state BJP president V.D. Sharma. Silawat and Rajput’s closeness to Jyotiraditya Scindia and their seniority as politicians made a natural way for them in the cabinet, political watchers say.

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