JAIPUR: Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje on Wednesday took a calculated risk in convening the weekly Cabinet meeting here. Even without a day's notice a majority of her Cabinet colleagues turned up at the meeting held for less than an hour from 6-30 in the evening.
The three Ministers absent at the meeting were Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, Social Welfare Minister Madan Dilwar and Transport Minister Yunus Khan. All of them were said to be having adequate reason to keep away. Mr. Kataria was away in Kolkata to attend a marriage while Mr. Dilwar was in Jodhpur. Mr. Khan's absence is not conspicuous as he belongs to the Raje camp anyway.
There had been lot of speculation here over the chances of Ms. Raje convening a meeting of the Cabinet this Wednesday after the "collective boycott" of the previous one convened at Kota on January 24 by half a dozen Ministers. The developments which followed, including Ms. Raje divesting Mr. Dilawar of his Cooperative portfolio and three senior Ministers meeting party president Rajnath Singh in Delhi, had seemingly made it difficult for the Chief Minister to sit and amicably discuss business with her colleagues.
The Ministers' decision to "behave" this time seemingly had something to do with what party president Rajnath Singh told them in Delhi last weekend to keep quiet till the elections to the State Assemblies are over. The Raje supporters, however, also point out that the decision to abide by what the "first among equals" said was also prompted by rumours that Ms. Raje would affect a Cabinet reshuffle soon.
The Cabinet was convened after issuing notices to the Ministers in the afternoon. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rajendra Rathore, who briefed journalists on the decisions, later mentioned Ms. Raje's proposed trip to Punjab the next day as reason for the short notice. The other compulsion with the Government was also the Budget session of the Assembly, which needed a minimum notice of 21 days.
Mr. Rathore said the Cabinet decided to hold the Assembly session from March 1 while the Assembly's Business Advisory Committee would decide the date for the presentation of the State Budget for the year 2007-08.
According to Mr. Rathore, another major decision taken at the meeting was to make an amendment in the Rajasthan Excise Act, 1950, to facilitate the transfer of appeals -- seeking review of the decisions of the Excise Commissioner -- to the Rajasthan Tax Board, instead of the Rajasthan Revenue Board, which is the practice at present.