JAIPUR: The six BSP MLAs who switched sides and joined the Congress on Monday may soon be rewarded with ministerial posts and other plum assignments in Rajasthan. After the defection, sources say a cabinet reshuffle is on the cards as also the long-pending political appointments to boards and corporations in the state.
The merger has taken the Congress tally from 100 to 106 in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly and experts say given the stronger foundation for his party now, Gehlot may soon undertake the tricky task of political appointments.
The move has come just two months before local body elections and two crucial Assembly by-elections in the state. The merger of the BSP MLAs who were constantly in touch with Gehlot is being seen as a ‘masterstroke’ of the CM – in which his deputy Sachin Pilot had no role to play. This has strengthened Gehlot’s position within the party and given him an upper hand in his tussle with Pilot.
The buzz suggests that some ex-BSP MLAs may be made ministers while the others will be accommodated as parliamentary secretaries and in other posts. Currently, the number of ministers in Rajasthan is 25 though under the rules, it can be increased up to 30. Even if no minister is dropped, Gehlot can certainly ‘adjust’ five more leaders.
Though Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot insists that the six BSP MLAs decided to join the Congress on their own, the merger this time is a virtual replay of what had happened in 2009. Even then, six BSP MLAs had joined the Congress and half of them were made ministers while the others were given parliamentary secretary posts.
The switchover has given the opposition BJP a chance to target Gehlot and link the issue to the Pilot-Gehlot rift in the Congress. BJP state President Satish Poonia remarked sharply, “Given the internal clash in the Congress, Gehlot has inspired this immoral act to save his own CM post by sacrificing all democratic values. Even in his last tenure, Gehlot had hung on to his post for five years only by encouraging defections and greed.”
Gehlot, however, vehemently denies these charges and claims the BSP MLAs have joined the Congress on their own and not due to any greed for posts.
“The decision to join the Congress was their own. The BJP may have tried to buy the BSP MLAs but we are not like them. In Karnataka, the BJP broke our party to form the government. But the six BSP MLAs have collectively joined the Congress on their own and not because we tried to tempt them. What the BJP has done to engineer defections in Karnataka, Goa or even Telangana is known to everyone," he said.
While the CM can easily counter his critics, satisfying all Congress MLAs in the state won’t be easy. Many senior MLAs have been waiting to get political posts for many months and now keeping them and the newly arrived ex-BSP MLAs satisfied will test Gehlot’s political skills.