All the ministers of the Chief Minister Raman Singh's previous cabinet, who have retained their seats, are expected to be sworn-in along with few new MLAs on Wednesday.
Brijmohan Agrawal, Amar Agarwal, Rajesh Munnat, Kedar Kashyap, Bikram Usendi and Punnulal Mohle – all ministers in the previous cabinet – are likely to get a cabinet berth. Three new faces – BJP State President Ramsewak Painkra, spokesperson Ajay Chandrakar and Yudveer Singh Judeo – are also expected in the new cabinet.
BJP completed a hat-trick in the State when it bagged 49 out of 90 seats last week.
While the Chief Minister Raman Singh will keep the key portfolios, Mr. Painkra is expected to get the Home department. With the rise in Maoist activities in south Chhattisgarh, the department of Home is always going to a tribal MLA in Chhattisgarh in recent years, owing to a perception that a tribal minister can manage crisis in Maoist areas better. However, tribal MLAs of north Chhattisgarh are given priority rather than south.
“A Home Minister, who is a resident of south Chhattisgarh, would be targeted immediately, so (Home) ministers are selected from north,” explained a senior bureaucrat. That is one of the main reasons why Kedar Kashyap – a powerful MLA from Narayanpur in south Chhattisgarh – is unlikely to get the prestigious ministry. Mr Kashyaps brother was killed by naxalites few years back.
However, besides Home, putting an efficient Council of Ministers is always a challenge especially in a state where the Chief Minister needs to strike a delicate balance between Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Class (OBC) in the cabinet. The previous Council of Ministers had five members from the ST community, two each from OBC and SC and three from the upper castes. In the recent election the tribal areas of Chhattisgarh clearly voted against the ruling party. BJP got only 11 seats in tribal areas compared to 19 in 2008. Rather BJP improved upon its tally in general seats and SC dominated areas. So, reportedly, pressure was mounted by his colleagues on the Chief Minister to accommodate more upper caste and SC members in the cabinet.
Whether Mr. Singh will succumb under such pressure, in a state that has more that 30% scheduled tribe, only a few months before general election, however remains to be seen.