Ahead of the polls, Chouhan in­ducts a Kaachhi, a Lodhi and a Pati­dar into his cab­i­net

India Today - - STATES - By Rahul Noronha

Hav­ing kept his BJP col­leagues on ten­ter­hooks for months, chief min­is­ter Shivraj Singh Chouhan fi­nally car­ried out a long over­due reshuf­fle, in­duct­ing three new faces to take the strength of his coun­cil of min­is­ters to 32. On the side­lines of the cer­e­mony at the Raj Bha­van, he hinted at the pos­si­bil­ity of yet an­other ex­pan­sion “soon”.

But com­ing barely nine months ahead of the state assem­bly polls (ex­pected in Novem­ber), it’s be­ing seen as a cyn­i­cally po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vre. Of the three new men, only Narayan Singh Kush­waha has pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence as a min­is­ter and has been given cab­i­net rank. The other two—Nars­ingh­pur MLA Jalam Singh Pa­tel and Balkr­ishna Pati­dar of Khar­gone—have been in­ducted as min­is­ters of state.

All three be­long to OBC (other back­ward caste) com­mu­ni­ties. Kush­waha is from the Kaachhi com­mu­nity, Pa­tel is a Lodhi and the third man is a Pati­dar. Po­lit­i­cal ob­servers be­lieve Kush­waha’s in­duc­tion is de­signed to woo vot­ers of the Gwalior-Cham­bal re­gion, where Chouhan ex­pects a stiff chal­lenge from Jy­oti­ra­ditya Scin­dia. Pati­dar’s in­duc­tion is be­ing seen as a bid to calm down his com­mu­nity af­ter the po­lice fir­ing last June in which six farm­ers were killed. And bring­ing in Pa­tel, a younger brother of former Union min­is­ter and Uma Bharti loy­al­ist Prahlad Pa­tel, is a clear sig­nal that the fam­ily has switched loy­al­ties.

The elec­toral cal­cu­la­tion be­hind the ex­pan­sion is clear from the fact that Chouhan, who is usu­ally mind­ful of main­tain­ing his gov­ern­ment’s im­age, has in­cluded a min­is­ter with a crim­i­nal record. Pa­tel was not only charged with ‘at­tempt to mur­der’ in 2012 but also has other cases, in­clud­ing crim­i­nal in­tim­i­da­tion and ri­ot­ing, pend­ing against him. His son Monu Pa­tel too is a his­tory-sheeter and has in the past been booked un­der the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Act.

It seems none of this per­turbs the CM, who is ex­pected to induct a fourth man, Ashok Na­gar MLA Gopi­lal Jatav, whose in­clu­sion was held back af­ter the Con­gress com­plained to the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. The reshuf­fle, the party said, was a vi­o­la­tion of the elec­toral code in view of the by­polls in Ko­laras and Mun­gaoli (which is part of Ashok Na­gar dis­trict).

Cit­ing the crim­i­nal cases against the new min­is­ters and their as­so­ci­ates, leader of the Op­po­si­tion Ajay Singh says, “the BJP’s hypocrisy has now come to the fore”. If it’s any con­so­la­tion, con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions al­low for three more min­is­ters in Mad­hya Pradesh’s now 32-strong Coun­cil of Min­is­ters.




The new in­ductees with CM Chouhan and Gover­nor Anandiben Pa­tel

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