The bear hug: Scindia and Shivraj.

The bear hug: Scindia and Shivraj.

Scindia ties Chouhan’s hands on portfolios; BJP central to decide

BJP caught among Maharaj, Dissent, Shivraj: Shatrughan; Nath launches from Ujjain

Agency Report | Bhopal/Ujjain | 7 July, 2020 | 11:30 PM

The Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet in Madhya Pradesh has been expanded, but the issue of portfolio distribution is still unresolved. Now, it has been learnt that it is the central BJP leadership which will decide who gets what in Madhya Pradesh.

It has been five days since the Chouhan cabinet was expanded, but the exercise of portfolio distribution is still going on. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has been shuttling between Bhopal and Delhi for quite sometime, met all the top leaders in Delhi for two days and discussed the distribution of portfolios with the central leadership.

On July 2, a total of 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 ministers.

Sources have said that Scindia has been demanding independent charge for the ministers of state and has put forth a proposal to the central BJP leadership to allot plum portfolios to his loyalists.

Sources also added that if the party agrees to Scindia’s demand, no minister will have two portfolios as there are only 34 departments in the state.

A meeting was held on Monday night between Madhya Pradesh BJP in-charge Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and Scindia amidst the ongoing race for allocation of portfolios. The two leaders also believed to have discussed the strategy for the by-elections for 24 assembly seats to be held soon.

Sahasrabuddhe said that a meeting with Scindia was held at his residence to discuss by-elections and other political issues of the state.

BJP sources said that the Chief Minister has submitted a list of possible portfolios of ministers to BJP President J.P. Nadda. The list will be discussed between Nadda and General Secretary (Organization) B.L. Santhosh and only then a final decision is likely to be taken. The announcement of portfolios of ministers is expected anytime by late Tuesday evening.

Sources say that the Scindia camp has been insisting on getting departments like Rural Development, Panchayats, Women and Child Development, Irrigation, Home, Transport, Public Relations and Food Supply. The party is considering these demands.

The BJP government was formed in March after toppling the Kamal Nath government with 22 of the Congress MLAs breaking away along with Scindia to suppport the BJP. Out of the 22 MLAs, who have to seek re-election now, 14 have been made ministers. Now the churning is going on for the portfolio distribution.

Meanwhile, former chief minister and Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath arrived here for ‘Darshan’ of Mahakal before the start of his campaign for the mini-midterm elections involving 24 assembly seats in the state.

The Ujjain visit was due on July 3 but was washed out due to heavy rains.

There are striking similarities between his present campaign and the one he led in 2018 to bring the Congress back into power after 15 years. He had started the campaign with a ‘pooja’ at Ujjain. The key difference of course is the absence of Jyotiraditya Scindia, who blindsided him and his departure with a big chunk of the party caused the current campaign. Scindia was the campaign convener then.

Kamal Nath has few more pilgrimages lined up in the next few days before he gets to the war-room to be set up in Gwalior, the Scindia bastion.

Shortly after the ‘pooja’ and meeting with the party colleagues, Kamal Nath left for Badnawar to address the first rally — ‘Loktantra Bachao’ (save democracy) rally.

Though Scindia and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh were the senior leaders in the party, Jyotiraditya was presented as the youth face to draw the electorate. Singh was asked to bring about patch up between various factions. Kamal Nath was thus the key campaigner. He retains that status. Kamal Nath who drew good crowds in 2018 under Shivraj Chouhan’s rule has made a striking start with Ujjain Congress leaders responding in large numbers despite the lockdown curbs. The temple town, once part of the Gwalior state has responded with hundreds of billboards greeting him.

Kamal Nath plans to list the achievements of his party and development works during the 15-month rule to seek return to power.

Kamal Nath held a one-on-one discussion with prospective candidates to set the selection process rolling. The party plans to have 24 call centres, one in each constituency that will witness the by-elections. The party workers will receive voters’ feedback and inputs for the prospective candidates and the agenda to be set on local issues. The same strategy will be adopted in all 24 constituencies this time also.

Unlike in 2018 when the main war room was at Bhopal, the party is expected to hire a bungalow in Gwalior where Kamal Nath plans to move to lead the campaign.
Former Union minister and film actor Shatrughan Sinha has taken a dig at the politics in Madhya Pradesh. He says there are three camps in the BJP in Madhya Pradesh – “Maharaj, Dissent and Shivraj”. Sinha on Tuesday tweeted in his inimitable style on the state of politics in Madhya Pradesh.

The Congress government in the state fell after former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia left the Congress and joined the BJP. The government was formed under the leadership of former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. It took more than three months to form the cabinet and now the party has to do a lot of thinking before distributing portfolios to ministers. Shatrughan Sinha’s tweet is being linked to the same.