Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday created his own Marg Drashak mandal by dropping party elders and his controversial home minister Babulal Gaur in the cabinet reshuffle.
Chouhan dropped two senior ministers, apparently on ground of old age, as he expanded his council of ministers, inducting four ministers of cabinet rank and five Members of State.
85-year-old Gaur 76-year-old Sartaj Singh, who held the important Home and PWD portfolios respectively, were shown the door, reported PTI. Both were said to have resigned following instructions from the BJP high command before the oath-taking ceremony.
“I was asked by the central leadership to resign,” Gaur, a former MP chief minister, told PTI.
Several bigwigs in BJP, including party patriarch L K Advani, besides Murli Manohar Joshi, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha were marginalised in the party and not accommodated in the Modi government due to their advanced age.
Advani and Joshi were included in the ‘Marg Darshak’ mandal, meant to mentor the party, but find themselves practically sidelined in the organisation. Both Gaur and Singh did not attend the oath-taking ceremony.
Governor Ramnaresh Yadav administered the oath of office and secrecy to the four new cabinet ministers — Archana Chitnis, Rustam Singh, Jaibhan Singh Pawaiya and Omprakash Dhurve — at Raj Bhavan in Chouhan’s presence.
Vishwas Sarang, Sanjay Pathak, Suryaprakash Meena, Lalita Yadav and Harsh Singh took oath as Ministers of State. There was speculation that Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Minister Kusum Mehdele too had been asked to resign because of her age, but when contacted an aide of the 71-year-old leader dismissed it as rumour.
Sources said following today’s expansion, a Happiness Ministry, a first-of-its-kind in the country, will be created.
The new ministry, inspired by Bhutan, which has the concept of ‘gross national happiness index’, will likely be headed by Chouhan himself, they said.
The portfolios to the newly-inducted ministers will be distributed by tomorrow. There could be a rejig of portfolios as well, sources said.
Chouhan’s council of ministers was last expanded in 2013. The Chouhan dispensation now has 20 cabinet ministers and nine ministers of state. Under the rules, the state can have a maximum of 33 ministers.
Gaur was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh from August 23, 2004, to November 29, 2005. Sartaj Singh was a minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 13-day Government.