Cabinet hopefuls in Himachal await early induction

Shimla: With two berths lying vacant in the sixteen month old Prem Kumar Dhumal cabinet, hopefuls for finding a place at the high table are a restless lot as most expectants await their rewards for containing congress in the state even though BJP suffered heavily in the parliamentary elections elsewhere in north India.

“Inducting ministers is the chief minister’s prerogative,” says Jai Ram Thakur, state party president adding, “and the party stands behind the chief minister in whatever decision is taken about the ministry expansion.”

Excluding the chief minister, the law permits 11 cabinet ministers and presently there are on nine. Dhumal who had sounded that an expansion was imminent before the Lok Sabha polls, deferred the exercise to after the elections and was able to avert internal bickering from casting a shadow on voting.

Hopefuls expect a decision about cabinet expansion to be taken soon at the BJP central executive committee meeting scheduled at Delhi on 20 – 21st June. In between the chief minister heads for Delhi later in the week and the eager ones expect an outcome on the vexed expansion by weekend.

One legislator, not expecting to find a place in the cabinet said “given the chief ministers auspiciousness attached to 9 numeral and 9th June having gone by, the hopefuls are eying other two auspicious days ahead that is 18th or 27th June.”

With BJP having gained a lead in as many as 48 of the 68 assembly segments, in the recently concluded general parliamentary elections, task of making the two cabinet inductions has become that much more difficult.

Before the elections, the chief minister had indicated the two cabinet berths would be filled from Una and Mandi districts to give due representation to all regions.

Gulab Singh, a close relative of the chief minister, is the sole cabinet minister from Mandi district, while Una district has none.

Names doing the rounds include Jai Ram Thakur or Roop Singh Thakur from Mandi and Satpal Satti or Virender Kanwar from Una.

Twist to the tale is that despite Mandi parliamentary seat having 13 BJP members on the 17 seats in the constituency, yet they could not ensure the defeat of congress stalwart Virbhadra Singh in a closely contested election against Maheshwar Singh. BJP won the other 3 parliamentary seats in the state.

On the other hand BJP made handsome gains in Shimla parliamentary seat, winning the seat the first time and marking a sweeping lead on all assembly seats in Sirmaur district but like Una, Sirmaur too has no representation in the cabinet.

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