By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 12 Mar: Two days after the new Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat was sworn in, his Council of Ministers came into existence, today. In all, eleven ministers were sworn in at a simple ceremony at Raj Bhawan this evening.
Governor Baby Rani Maurya administered the oath of office and secrecy to the new council of ministers. This included 7 who were ministers in the Trivendra Singh Rawat Government and four new faces. Thus the new council of ministers is complete and now there is no vacancy. Uttarakhand can have a maximum of 12 ministers, including the Chief Minister. The only one left out from the previous cabinet is Madan Kaushik, who has now been appointed the new BJP State President. The outgoing BJP State President Bansidhar Bhagat has been inducted into the new cabinet.
In the new council of Ministers, Dr Dhan Singh Rawat and Rekha Arya have managed to retain their positions as Ministers of State (Independent Charge). It was being speculated that she could be dropped, given some controversies. She is the only woman in the new council of ministers. While Garhwal Division is represented by seven ministers, Kumaon is now represented by five ministers. Satpal Maharaj, about whom it was being speculated that he could be made to give up his Chaubattakhal constituency for the new CM and instead made to contest the Pauri Lok Sabha by-election in place of Tirath Singh Rawat, has managed to retain his number two position in the new cabinet. He was the first minister to be administered oath of office and secrecy by Governor Baby Rani Maurya.
The Cabinet Ministers are Satpal Maharaj, Harak Singh Rawat, Yashpal Arya, Subodh Uniyal, Arvind Pandey, Ganesh Joshi, Bansidhar Bhagat and Bishan Singh Chufal. The new Ministers of State are Dr Dhan Singh Rawat, Rekha Arya and Swami Yateeshwaranand. Cabinet Minister Arvind Pandey took the oath in Sanskrit.
The new faces include Ganesh Joshi, who represents Dehradun district (Mussoorie constituency), and Swami Yateeshwaranand, who have become ministers for the first time. All the five ministers of Congress background, who were in the previous Congress government, have managed to retain their places in the Tirath cabinet. It remains to be seen how the old BJP cadre MLAs, aspiring to be given a chance, react to this, as the speculation was that some of the Congress background ministers could be dropped. Yashpal Arya and Rekha Arya represent the Dalit faces of the council.
The BJP has claimed that deliberations are still underway to give a final shape to the portfolios of the council of ministers and these could be announced late tonight or tomorrow. It may be recalled that Trivendra Singh Rawat had kept two places vacant in his council of ministers when he took over as CM and never filled them. When a third vacancy was created due to the sudden demise of senior Cabinet Minister Prakash Pant, the vacancies continued to remain. The new CM has filled all the positions in his council of ministers. It remains to be seen, however, who will be given the position of Parliamentary Affairs Minister, which was earlier held by the late Prakash Pant and, later, held on interim basis by Madan Kaushik who is no more in the new cabinet.
Pant was known to handle the Opposition’s attack inside the House on various issues quite effortlessly and Kaushik also to some extent managed to wriggle out of difficult positions.
Speaking after the oath ceremony, Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat expressed the hope that his ministerial colleagues would continue to give him full support and cooperation in keeping the state on the path of development. He added that the new government was fully committed to development and welfare of the state and it would set up a new paradigm with the coordination and cooperation of all and that the new government would work with a positive energy.