As lockdown 4.0 nears end and several relaxations have been made across the country and state, political activities in Madhya Pradesh have seen a big spurt with speculations rife over Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s cabinet expansion and some big political names jumping ships by next week.
Chouhan held a meeting with BJP state president Vishnudutt Sharma and organisation general secretary Suhas Bhagat on Tuesday, during which the list of probable names for the cabinet expansion are said to have been finalised. The list is said to have been forwarded to New Delhi through state in-charge Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and the final decision will be of the central leadership, party sources said.
Following the meeting, Sharma said the CM was ready for an expansion, but it will be done after thorough discussions at every level as is the party tradition. There have been repeated speculations over cabinet expansion since Chouhan took over as CM on March 23 in a dramatic political turnaround in the state. A month later, on April 21, he inducted five ministers into his cabinet, but left a lot of berths vacant and expectations alive.
Sources say that the delay in expansion of cabinet is mainly because of difficulty to achieve a balance between the newly inducted ex-MLAs of Jyotiraditya Scindia camp and the BJP aspirants who have been part of Shivraj cabinet earlier, and those who had been made to wait then.
The list forwarded to Delhi seemingly includes many of these hopefuls, but the final list of names when it gets cleared by New Delhi will be interesting to watch, because it will also set the tone for the situation that might arise during the impending bypolls to 24 seats in the state. Those left out from the cabinet might become a source of big discomfort for the party, political watchers feel.
More Congress leaders to jump ship?
Speculations are also rife that by month-end or early next month, some prominent Congress leaders and several workers, especially in the Gwalior-Chambal region of Scindia’s influence, are likely to join the BJP. There are also speculations that Scindia might come to Bhopal and Gwalior, participate in the oath-taking ceremony of the expanded cabinet and also induct Congress leaders and workers into the BJP.
Among the big names that are making rounds include a senior Brahmin leader from Bhopal region and another from Bundelkhand region. Also, the name of ex-MLA Hemant Katare—son of former leader of opposition Satyadev Katare—was afloat as a probable ship jumper. However, he released a video on Tuesday trashing the speculations. Some other young Congress members have also denied rumours that they might join the BJP.
Congress spokesman K.K. Mishra, who has been made in-charge for Gwalior-Chambal region in view of the impending bypolls, reacted to the speculations saying that those who adhere to the Congress ideology will never leave the party and not engage in any political trading. “But those who think of politics as a business and who have economic gains in mind might leave the party and no party should regret the departure of such members. No one can stop those who want to leave, but those who did leave earlier have regretted their decision,” Mishra said.
Meanwhile, there are also speculations that a senior BJP leader from Gwalior-Chambal region, who has been sidelined for quite some time now might decide to change the party, too. Former member of parliament from Ujjain, Premchand Guddu, who had left the Congress to join the BJP just ahead of 2018 Assembly elections, has already resigned from the saffron party and is looking to come back to his parent party.