BHOPAL: The smile on the face of Jyotiraditya Scindia said it all. Out of the 28 ministers added to Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government on Thursday, a dozen were from 22 erstwhile Congress MLAs whose resignation from the Assembly had ousted the Kamal Nath government on March 20.
The inductees include 20 Cabinet and eight ministers. The 12 ministers from the splintered Congress camp included Imarti Devi, Mahendra Singh Sisodiya, Prabhuram Chaudhary, Pradumn Singh Tomar, Rajvardhan Singh Dattigaon, Suresh Dhakad, OPS Bhadoria, Brijendra Singh Yadav and Giriraj Dandotiya.
It also included Aidal Singh Kansana, Bisahulal Singh and HS Dang — the three other Congress MLAs who too joined the BJP over not being made ministers in the Nath government. With Scindia loyalists Govind Singh Rajput and Tulsi Silawat already a part of the six-member Cabinet, the number of Scindia loyalists in the expanded 34-member Council of Ministers has grown to 11, while the number of breakaway former Congress MLAs in the new team is 14.
“For the last two months sustained character assassination efforts are going on… Let me tell them, it’s time for them to get what they deserve. Tiger abhi zinda hai,” said Scindia.
The expansion also reflects the influence of the Gwalior-Chambal region from where Scindia comes. Out of the 12 inductees in the new team from the area, three are core BJP MLAs – Bharat Singh Kushwah, Yashodhara Raje Scindia and Arvind Bhadoria.
Only seven ministers of the previous Chouhan and BJP governments managed to get place in the team. There is more for Chouhan to worry about: only three of the ministers inducted — Bhupendra Singh, Arvind Bhadoria and Jagdish Devra — can be counted among his loyalists.
The second expansion of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan team on Thursday has made it clear what BJP would like to do first: focus on 24 Assembly by-elections. The reason why BJP has inducted a dozen ministers from the Gwalior-Chambal region is clear. Sixteen of the 24 Assembly by-elections due to be held on seats are from this region. The party performed its worst in the region in the 2018 Assembly polls.
The by-elections are necessitated by the resignation of erstwhile Congress MLAs in March. Most of them would now be BJP candidates.
“Making 14 of them ministers is a clear signal that they are being readied to work for the people ahead of the polls,” a BJP leader told TNIE.
Inducting nine ministers (including fresh faces) from Malwa-Nimar region, too, is a message that the BJP wants to regain its ground in the belt which has long been BJP-RSS nucleus.
Five of the 24 assembly by-polls are to be held in that region.
Former CM Uma Bharti, meanwhile, is reportedly not happy with the cabinet expansion as her suggestions to include MLAs from Bundelkhand and MLAs from Lodhi OBC caste were ignored.