Shimla: As chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal draws up plans to expand his cabinet, BJP – the ruling party has conveniently chosen to remain silent over likely appointments of parliamentary secretaries (PS) and central parliamentary secretaries (CPS), something it had gone to court against as an opposition party in 2006 and forced the then congress government drop the appointments made.
Jai Ram Thakur, BJP state president says, â€œat the party level, issue of appointing PS and CPS has not been discussed and it is purely the chief ministerâ€™s prerogative for making such appointments.â€
The issue has come around to haunt the ruling party as it looks to place its legislators with some executive responsibilities for there are only two vacancies in the cabinet needing to be filled.
On assuming power, Dhumal had inducted a team of 9 ministers in January 2008 even as the state is entitled to have 11 ministers, besides the chief minister.
The state unit of BJP, for its good performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections winning 3 of the 4 seats, the partyâ€™s national executive at its meet last month cleared the chief ministerâ€™s proposal to induct more ministers and fill up the vacant slots.
However, the ruling party is toying with appointing PS and CPS to accommodate more aspirants than the law permits.
Sensing deception, opposition congress says that the BJP has no moral ground to go in for such appointments.
Party spokesman Kuldeep Rathore says, â€œwhen in opposition BJP had opposed appointments of parliamentary secretaries made by the then congress government and had even moved court to obtain a stay in the matter. Later, appointment of 12 PS and CPS had to be nullified, he said.
When Jai Ram Thakur was quizzed on the issue, he said, â€œthose appointments were canceled on technical grounds.â€
Meanwhile hopefuls for finding a place in the cabinet 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.
Jai Ram says, â€œthe party stands behind the chief minister in whatever decision is taken about the ministry expansion.â€
Prior to the election, Dhumal had sounded that to maintain regional balances one minister would be inducted from Mandi district and another form Una, however the results seem to have upset those calculations.
With BJP having gained a lead in as many as 48 of the 68 assembly segments in the polls, task of making the two cabinet inductions has become that much more difficult.
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. Other than Mandi, BJP won the other 3 seats.
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.