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Eyeing state polls, Chouhan mulls Cabinet expansion

Statesman News Service | Bhopal |

Keeping in mind the state Assembly elections scheduled at the end of this year, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is likely to carry out another Cabinet expansion on Saturday and three to five new ministers are likely to be inducted into the Cabinet.

According to sources, the CM held consultations regarding the expansion with BJP MP president Nankumar Singh Chauhan and BJP state organisational general secretary Suhas Bhagat at the CM House on Friday.

Newly appointed governor Anandiben Patel is learnt to have given her consent for the expansion of the Chouhan Cabinet. The oath-taking ceremony is likely to take place at the Governor House here on 3 February. The Opposition Congress, however, has objected to the proposed expansion terming it a “violation of constitutional norms”.

State Congress president Arun Yadav has submitted a memorandum to the Election Commission (EC) and written a letter to the governor alleging that the BJP government can not carry out a cabinet expansion, as the model code of conduct is in force ahead of the state Assembly by-elections scheduled at Mungaoli and Kolaras on 24 February. In the memorandum to the EC, Yadav has demanded that the proposed expansion be postponed.

Meanwhile, in the letter to the governor, Yadav said, “This expansion or reshuffle would be against the Constitutional traditions. The proposed Cabinet expansion, if any, is directly or indirectly a way to influence the electorate.”

Madhya Pradesh chief electoral officer Salina Singh said she has forwarded the memorandum to the Election Commission of India (ECI).

If the expansion does take place, two of the present ministers, Kusum Mehdele, a Cabinet minster, and Harsh Singh, a minister of state and unwell for a long time, are likely to be dropped due to old age and ill-health respectively, sources said.

In this expansion, at least one minister would be made from Indore. The industrial capital of the state does not have any representation in the Cabinet ever since former minister Kailash Vijaywargiya was inducted into the BJP national organisation.

A woman minister could also be inducted from a choice between Ranjana Baghel and Neena Verma from Dhar.

The CM is also likely to pay attention towards caste and regional equations and induct a minster each from the Vindhya, Gwalior-Chambal and Ashok Nagar regions.

Presently, the Chouhan cabinet has 29 ministers, including 20 cabinet ministers and nine ministers of state. From a possible 34 ministerial berths, five are still vacant.

As far as caste equation is concerned, the Chouhan Cabinet includes seven OBC ministers including the chief minister.