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Bridging The Gap
Madhya Pradesh: Backwards to the fore.
  Thursday 15 February, 2018
Madhya Pradesh: Backwards to the fore.

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.




source:https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/states/story/20180219-madhya-pradesh-backwards-to-the-fore-1166508-2018-02-10

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