Sunny Sebastian

All the three are to be Ministers of State

Girija Vyas, Chandresh Kumari fail to make it

JAIPUR: The Congress high command’s decision to induct three more newly-elected Members of Parliament from Rajasthan into the Union Council of Ministers ensures reasonable representation to the State which elected 20 Congress MPs out of a total of 25.

C. P. Joshi, the lone Cabinet Minister from the State, was inducted in the first round of swearing-in this past week while all the three new Ministers named on Wednesday—Sachin Pilot, Namonarain Meena and Mahadeo Singh Khandela—are to be Ministers of State.

The selection has been a balancing act carried out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi after consultation with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. “I am happy about the decision to induct three more Ministers from the State in addition to Prof. Joshi, who is already a Cabinet Minister. Their presence in the Union Council of Ministers would be of great advantage to Rajasthan,” he said.

The new Team Manmohan does not have two of the former Ministers—Sis Ram Ola and Santosh Bagrodia—from Rajasthan while Mr. Meena has made it once again though without a promotion to the Cabinet Minister or Independent charge. The octogenarian Mr. Ola, the Mines Minister in the previous Government, is being kept out seemingly due to his advancing age. Mr. Bagrodia, an industrialist, is a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Among the serious aspirants who could not make it are Girija Vyas, Chittorgarh MP and chairperson of the National Commission for Women, and Chandresh Kumari, former Himachal Pradesh politician who got elected from Jodhpur. Dr. Vyas’s fate was seemingly sealed when the party decided to go the whole hog on Prof. Joshi, who is also the Pradesh Congress Committee president but Ms. Chandresh Kumari had kept her hopes alive on the basis of the caste factor (Rajput) and representation of Marwar (west Rajasthan).

As such the whole of Jodhpur division from where Mr. Gehlot hails has no representation in the Union Council of Ministers. Though three of the four women candidates the Congress had put up in the latest elections in Rajasthan won, none of them has been given a berth. After initial indications that Mr. Ola would not be given another chance, the first-time MP from Nagaur, the young Jyoti Mirdha, too was hopeful of getting a berth.

Caste aspects

The choice of the Ministers has taken care of the caste aspects most by picking up one each from the warring Gujjar—Sachin Pilot—and Meena (Mr. Namonarain Meena) at a time when tension between the two groups remains intact in the whole of east Rajasthan. Mr. Pilot and Mr. Meena might have been eligible even without their caste identities but in the present milieu in Rajasthan choosing one of them alone would surely have angered the other community.

Mr. Meena had won the Tonk-Sawai Madhopur seat against the Gujjar leader and BJP candidate Kirori Singh Bainsla by a small margin of 317 votes and there are people here who point out that a bigger margin of victory perhaps could have ensured this former Minister of State for Forest and Environment a Cabinet berth!

The party found a replacement for Mr. Ola, a Jat elder from the Shekahwati region’s Jhunjhunu Lok Sabha seat in Mahadeo Singh, who defeated former Union Minister Subhash Maharia in Sikar. While Mr. Singh is a first-time MP, he is a Jat and also hails from the Shekhawati region. Curiously enough, like Prof. C. P. Joshi, he too had lost the State Assembly election held last December.

Yet, apart from the euphoria, it needs to be pointed out that with 20 Lok Sabha seats Rajasthan has not gained anything extra.

Previously when the party had only four MPs, the representation of the State was three Ministers, including one of Cabinet rank. Now when the strength of MPs is five times more, the number of Ministers has increased by one only.