Home Dehradun Cabinet expansion likely soon claims Mahendra Bhatt

Cabinet expansion likely soon claims Mahendra Bhatt

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By Arun Pratap Singh

Dehradun, 14 Sep: There is fresh speculation within BJP circles about the state cabinet expansion and also about ‘Lal Batti’ distribution soon. Top sources in the party claim that Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has already spoken with the party high command and got the go ahead in this regard. Hence, this time, the buzz is more intense and serious.

It may be recalled that ever since the BJP came to power in 2017 and then managed to retain power in 2022, every time the CM has visited New Delhi and spoken with the Central leadership of the party, the media starts speculating about Cabinet Expansion and Lal Batti distribution. However, all through his tenure, the then CM Trivendra Singh Rawat had never been able to fill all the cabinet posts, thus keeping everyone guessing. In fact, there were two vacancies initially when Trivendra Singh Rawat had taken over as CM in 2017 but, with the death of senior Cabinet Minister Prakash Pant in June 2019, the number of vacancies had gone up to 3. However, his successor Tirath Singh Rawat chose to fill all the posts in his Council of Ministers, but could not last as CM and was replaced by Pushkar Singh Dhami just months before the Assembly elections. When Dhami became the CM for the first time, he retained the same council of ministers as Tirath Singh Rawat. However, after the elections, when the BJP managed to retain power, Dhami preferred to keep three vacancies in his council of ministers. With the death of Cabinet Minister Chandan Ramdas, the number of vacancies has gone up to 4. In addition, with the exception of jut a handful of Lal Batti posts on which he has made appointments, none other have been made since he became CM more than a year ago.

Speaking to media persons, BJP State President Mahendra Bhatt confirmed that Dhami has held discussions in this regard with the BJP’s central leadership and things will soon move in this direction. Meanwhile, speculation is that one or two ministers might even be replaced, but that is easier said than done. BJP has always seen cabinet expansion as a political challenge. During the Trivendra Singh era, the problem was the inclusion of several senior leaders who had come to the BJP fold from Congress like Satpal Maharaj, Subodh Uniyal, Harak Singh Rawat and Yashpal Arya leaving few places for committed BJP leaders. Hence, Rawat chose to just keep everyone guessing. His cabinet only had Prakash Pant, Arvind Pandey and Madan Kaushik from the BJP fold.

Now, that Harak Singh Rawat and Yashpal Arya have since returned to Congress, only Subodh Uniyal and Satpal Mahraj remain as old Congressmen in Dhami’s Government. Both of them are also considered assimilated well in BJP but it remains to be seen how Dhami manages to expand his cabinet and hand over more Lal Battis. Political pundits admit that this is a major challenge given the fact that BJP has a comfortable majority in the Assembly and there are many three-time or even four-time MLAs in the party, which only increases the challenge.