Meaty portfolios remain the bone of contention in Madhya Pradesh three days after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan expanded his ministry. With the issue remaining unresolved till Sunday evening, Chouhan said he might announce the portfolios on return to Bhopal on Monday.
Chouhan has been shuttling between Bhopal and Delhi for some time - first for the names to be included in the ministry and then, for the portfolios to be shared with the new arrivals from the Congress. He left here again for Delhi on Sunday morning and was still unable to finalise the list.
On July 2, 28 new ministers were inducted in the council of ministers, including 12 from Jyotiraditya Scindia's camp. Of the 22 Congress MLAs who resigned from the Congress to join the BJP, 14 are now in the expanded ministry.
Among those inducted on Thursday, 20 are of cabinet rank and eight are ministers of state. So, while the new inductees are making efforts to bag coveted departments, those in charge of more than one portfolio are trying to retain their favourite ones.
A three-way contest has panned out for key portfolios.
This is playing out between the Congress horde that accounts for 41 per cent of the ministry, the original senior leaders from the BJP who are wondering why they should make sacrifices for the turncoats and the three or four Chouhan supporters, who might end up paying the heaviest price for the adventure of toppling the Congress government.
Chouhan knows full well the BJP's Central leadership is not generously disposed towards him. He is also scheduled to meet Jyotiraditya Scindia in Delhi. Interestingly the RSS has had to intervene in the tussle between the central leaders and Chouhan. The key mediator from RSS is B.L. Santosh.
The Scindia camp had been insisting on getting the departments it held in the Kamal Nath ministry. It is another matter that he kept nagging Kamal Nath all through the 15 months for better departments.
Scindia feels departments that gives his ministers a direct access to the masses would help in winning the by-elections. He wants Rural Development, Panchayats, Women and Child Welfare, Home, Irrigation, Transport, Public Relations, and Food Supplies. out of these, Irrigation is already with his camp follower Tusli Silawat.
The leverage through the Public Relations Department has been the forte of Narottam Mishra in the previous BJP regime. Mishra enjoys greater proximity to the BJP top leadership and would not like to part with the Home and Health portfolios that he has now.
The other key department is Finance. The previous Finance Minister for almost a decade Jayant Malaiyya has lost the elections.
The BJP leaders by now realise they grossly erred in expecting Jyotiraditya Scindia to adapt to their political culture. On the contrary, it is the BJP that seems to have been infected by the Congress bug. Most noticeable change is seen in Scindia's articulation. He resorted to analogies and shrillness and like Shivraj Singh, called himself a tiger ("suno Kamal Nathji. Suno Digvijaya Singhji, tiger abhi zinda hai," he had said in a virtual rally to mark the BJP government's 100 days. The Gwalior scion also compared the senior Congress leaders with birds of prey.
Taking a dig at the delay in finalising the portfolios, the Congress, that had a long history of being controlled by the high command, has said the BJP's Central leadership seems to be keen to run the Madhya Pradesh government.
"Formation of the ministry and allocation of portfolios should normally be the Chief Minister's prerogative. That no longer seems to be the case. The BJP seems to have given up that culture. It took 100 days to finalise the ministry and now the portfolios have remained undecided for nearly four days," party's media coordinator, Narendra Saluja said.