Congress infighting over nominations delayed appointment of ministers, say party members

The coalition government in Jharkhand led by Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)’s Hemant Soren is all set for its final expansion on Saturday when Congress announces the names of three party members to be appointed as cabinet ministers in the JMM-Congress-Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) coalition government.

Senior Congress leaders said that intra-party rivalries had delayed the process of nomination by central Congress leadership to form the 12-member cabinet. The existing cabinet — with four ministers from JMM, two from Congress, two from RJD — has not even met even once in six weeks since Mr. Soren was sworn in as Chief Minister on July 13. Three Congress legislators are then expected to take oath for the cabinet to reach a strength of 12 members.

“The central leadership took some time to decide in choosing from among Sarfaraz Ahmed, Malhan Malik, Banna Gupta and Dadai Dubey but three of them will take oath as ministers soon. Some party members opposed Sarfaraz Ahmed pointing out that he is an accused in the cash for votes scam in elections to the Rajya Sabha in 2012; others were opposed to Malhan Malik being appointed minister,” said a senior leader from the Congress’ state unit.

Earlier on June 21, rivalries between Dhanbad legislator Malhan Malik and Congress Legislature Party head and minister in the current government Rajendra Prasad Singh rivalries had erupted openly when the supporters of both politicians clashed with bamboo sticks and fired more than 10 rounds in the air at the time of All India Congress Committee in-charge for Jharkhand B.K. Hariprasad’s first visit to the state. The violent clash exposed a rivalry that has simmered on since 2009 over political power and control over coal resources in Dhanbad.

“These decisions are the Congress’ internal matters. But this delay in appointing nominees to become ministers in the government has affected the progress of policy-making on crucial issues given the government has less than 18 months at the helm in the remaining term of the assembly,” said JMM General Secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya.