BHOPAL: Post the Monsoon Session of Parliament, another expansion is on the cards for the Narendra Modi Cabinet. And with Assembly polls slated in Madhya Pradesh for 2018, rumours are rife that faces from the state may find favour with the Prime Minister. Prominent names doing the rounds in BJP circles in MP include former Union minister of state and Lok Sabha member from Damoh of Bundelkhand region Prahlad Patel, his Lok Sabha colleague from Jabalpur Rakesh Singh, and party vice-presidents-cum-Rajya Sabha members Prabhat Jha and Vinay Sahastrabudhe.
Lodhi leader Prahlad Patel, 57, who was MoS for Coal in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, could also find favour with the PM, as the BJP is trying to woo the OBC community. Patel, once a close confidant of Lodhi leader and present Union minister Uma Bharti, has won three Lok Sabha elections from three seats—Seoni (1996), Balaghat (1999) and Damoh (2014). According to a BJP leader in MP, Patel’s Lodhi community forms a crucial votebank in 50-80 Assembly seats in the state, particularly in Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur and Damoh district of Bundelkhand region. Also, he has served as party affairs in-charge of Manipur.
There are six ministers in the Union Council of Ministers, who represent MP in the Houses of Parliament, including Sushma Swaraj, Thanwar Chand Gehlot, Narendra Singh Tomar, M J Akbar, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Prakash Javadekar. But none of them hail from the OBC segment, despite all three chief ministers of the BJP governments in the state since 2003 being from OBC segment—Bharti, Babulal Gaur, and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Also, the possibility of Jabalpur MP Rakesh Singh’s name being in the reckoning has been part of grapevine, particularly as Jabalpur is the fulcrum of RSS affairs in MP’s Mahakoshal region.
Singh, who has been an MP since 2004, was also appointed the saffron party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha in 2016. Party insiders feel that Singh could also be given a major charge in the party organisation.
Two other names in the reckoning are BJP national vice-presidents and Rajya Sabha members Prabhat Jha and Vinay Sahastrabudhe.
Sahastrabudhe, who is the party affairs incharge for MP and a member of the Upper House from Maharashtra, has a strong backing from the RSS top brass. The proximity of the 59-year-old politician to top BJP leaders, including former party president and Cabinet minister Nitin Gadkari, also adds weight to his ministerial prospects. The other party national vice-president and Rajya Sabha member from MP, 60-year-old Prabhat Jha, is also rooted in MP politics. He is the editor of BJP’s mouthpiece Kamal Sandesh.
“We in BJP don’t view the country in terms of fragments or states. Similarly the Central government also believes in getting the best from the entire nation,” said BJP state spokesperson Deepak Vijayvargiya.