Explained: Equations behind the Rajasthan cabinet reshuffle

Rajasthan Cabinet reshuffle: Who are the new faces in the Rajasthan council of ministers? What factors seem to have been taken into consideration before their selection?

The new names included in the council of ministers in Rajasthan, as part of the long-due cabinet reshuffle in the state, were announced Saturday evening. Accommodating MLAs loyal to both Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, the new faces have been decided as part of an effort to broker a truce between the warring factions within the state Congress and also to ensure representation of communities whose electoral support will be crucial for the party in the 2023 Assembly elections.

Who are the new faces in the Rajasthan council of ministers?

The Congress has announced 15 new names in the Rajasthan council of ministers — 11 to be inducted as cabinet ministers and the rest as ministers of state. The new cabinet ministers will be Hemaram Choudhary, Mahendra Jeet Singh Malviya, Ramlal Jat, Mahesh Joshi, Vishvendra Singh, Ramesh Meena, Mamta Bhupesh Bairwa, Bhajanlal Jatav, Tikaram Jully, Govind Ram Meghwal and Shakuntala Rawat.

The four state ministers are Zahida, Brijendra Singh Ola, Rajendra Singh Gudha and Murari Lal Meena. Of the new faces,Mamta Bhupesh Bairwa, Bhajanlal Jatav and Tikaram Jully were earlier state ministers who have now been elevated to cabinet rank.

How many of the new ministers are from the Gehlot and Pilot factions?

Five of the 15 newly-announced names are loyalists of former deputy chief minister Pilot. The names of Pilot loyalist legislators Hemaram Choudhary, Vishvendra Singh, Ramesh Meena, Brijendra Singh Ola and Murari Lal Meena figure in the list. Ola and Murari Lal have been made state ministers while the other three will be cabinet ministers.

All five were among the 18 loyalist MLAs who had supported Pilot during the political crisis in Rajasthan last year and had camped with him in Haryana and Delhi over a month. Vishwendra Singh and Ramesh Meena were cabinet ministers previously as well and were removed from their post after they sided with Pilot during the political crisis.

Back then, the two were also suspended from the primary membership of the Congress party. However, their suspension was revoked after a truce was brokered by the Congress high command between the two camps and now, the duo is back as cabinet ministers. Their reinstatement was one of the major demands put forward by the Pilot group to the party prior to the cabinet reshuffle, said sources in the Congress.

However, in recent months, it has been speculated in party circles that senior MLA and former Bharatpur royal Vishvendra Singh has come closer to the Gehlot group.

Six-time MLA Hemaram Choudhary, another Pilot supporter who had resigned from the Assembly earlier this year, has also been included as a cabinet minister. Choudhary’s resignation was yet to be accepted. The septuagenarian MLA from Barmer district is also known to share a frosty relationship with Congress leader Harish Chaudhary, who also comes from the same area and resigned from his ministerial post after being appointed as the Congress in-charge for Punjab.

Apart from these five, the other 10 names in the list are known to be followers of chief minister Gehlot, with MLAs such as Mahesh Joshi and Ramlal Jat being counted among the CM’s staunchest supporters. Joshi is also the Chief Whip of the Congress party in the state Assembly.

Rajendra Singh Gudha, who is a vocal supporter of Gehlot and had joined the Congress after winning the election on a BSP ticket has also been made a state minister.

What factors seem to have been taken into consideration before their selection?

Apart from striking a balance between the two factions, the other factor which has played out here is caste.

Of the 15 names who will be now part of the council of ministers in Rajasthan, seven come from the SC/ST category including four SC and three ST MLAs. Among these seven names are three SC MLAs who were earlier state ministers and have now been promoted as cabinet ministers.

Congress sources said this has also been done keeping in mind the 2023 Assembly elections, wherein the party will hope to repeat its performance in 2018. The Congress had won the majority of the Assembly seats reserved for SC and ST categories helping it go ahead of the BJP.

Since the past several months, Pilot loyalist MLAs such as Ved Prakash Solanki had also been implying through statements that sections such as the SC, ST and minority communities don’t have proper representation in governance, which seems to have contributed to the inclusion of more names SC/ST MLAs as ministers.

Four names among the newly-made ministers are also from the influential Jat community while MLA Shakuntala Rawat, who has been made a cabinet minister, is a Gujjar, the community to which Pilot belongs.

The move to include Rawat, a known loyalist of Gehlot, in the cabinet is being seen within party circles as an effort to make overtures to the Gujjars, many of whom are unhappy after Pilot was not made chief minister despite leading the party to victory in the 2018 Assembly elections as state president. Another Gujjar MLA, Ashok Chandna who is also a supporter of Gehlot, is already a part of the council of ministers.

The inclusion of Zahida as a minister of state now takes the representation from the Muslim community to two in the Rajasthan council of ministers.

What will be the look of the Rajasthan council of ministers after the reshuffle?

While the entire council of ministers in Rajasthan had resigned before the cabinet reshuffle, when CM Gehlot met Governor Kalraj Mishra on Saturday evening, he presented the resignations of only ministers Raghu Sharma, Govind Singh Dotasra and Harish Chaudhary to Mishra, which signals that apart from these three, all the other incumbent ministers will continue to be in office even though their portfolios may be changed. The three ministers who have resigned from their ministerial posts will continue to work in the party organisation with significant posts.

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With the addition of the 15 new members into the existing pool of ministerial faces, Rajasthan will now have 30 members in its council of ministers including Chief Minister Gehlot. Since there were nine vacancies in the council of ministers, the appointment of the new ministers is also expected to reduce the number of portfolios being handled by individual ministers.

Prior to the reshuffle, several ministers had charge of more than one department. For example, state Congress president Dotasra was in charge of Tourism as well as Education. Chief Minister Gehlot himself holds multiple important portfolios including Finance, Home, Excise and General Administration.

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