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Shivraj Cabinet Expansion A Step To Balance Caste Equation, Address Power Struggle Within BJP Ahead Of Madhya Pradesh Polls

BHOPAL: With less than 100 days left for the moral code of conduct to come into force in view of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan inducted three more ministers in his cabinet despite resentment within the ruling BJP. Governor Mangubhai Patel on Saturday administered the oath of office as minister to three legislators — Rajendra Shukla, Gauri Shankar Bisen and Rahul Lodhi at the Raj Bhavan. The oath ceremony was conducted in the presence of CM Chouhan.

It is being said that the BJP took this step to balance the regional aspirations and caste-equation as resentments were growing. The three who were inducted are — Brahmin (Rajendra Shukla) and two are from the OBC communities (Bisen and Lodhi). While senior BJP leader and seven-time MLA from Balaghat, Gauri Shankar Bisen has become a minister in the CM Chouhan cabinet for the second time, Rahul Lodhi, MLA from Khargapur in Tikamgarh district, was included in the council of ministers for the first time. Lodhi is the nephew of former chief minister Uma Bharti. In MP, there are about nine per cent Lodhi voters who have influence in over 65 Assembly constituencies.

Two-time former minister and four-time sitting MLA from Rewa — Rajendra Shukla has established himself as a prominent Brahmin leader in the Vindhya region, where the party had won 24 out of 30 Assembly seats in 2018. Not including Shukla into the cabinet in previous reshuffles has been fueling resentment among the Brahmins in the region.

In Rewa and Satna districts, there are about 25 per cent Brahmin voters, who are currently upset with the state government following the demolition of Pravesh Shukla’s house. Pravesh is accused of urinating on a tribal man and making it a caste issue. Shukla told IANS, “The BJP will win 25 seats in 2023. I was working as an MLA but now as a minister, I can work with more power. I thank the party for giving respect not to me but to the whole Vindhya region.”

When asked if he was made minister just days before the elections, Shukla said, “I was serving for my party as a true soldier for around the last three decades. I was already sharing the responsibility with senior leaders as I am a member of the state working committee. Blessings of the people of Rewa and the entire Vindhya region have always been with me. This is what I can say.”

It has also been claimed that the move comes in view of the upcoming Assembly elections and the directions of the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, who has taken full command of poll preparations in Madhya Pradesh, was being followed. However, the political developments taking place in the past few weeks also indicated that there was a pure “power politics” behind the last minute cabinet expansion, for which, the ground was prepared a few months ago. Notably, former CM Uma Bharti a few months back had said in a warning note that, “regional and caste-equation in the present cabinet is highly disturbed, and if not given attention on time, it may affect the BJP a lot during the election.”

In other example, inducting his political opponent and former MLA Abhay Mishra and his wife Neelam Mishra (ex-MLA) into the BJP had upset Rajendra Shukla a lot. There is factionalism and attempts are also there by some to present themselves as better option to CM Chouhan, and some top state BJP leaders had been attempting to damage Rajendra Shukla in Rewa division, highly placed sources told IANS.

Observing that his own senior colleagues aspiring to be the CM have been attempting to corner him in his own region (Rewa). Sensing this, Shukla immediately reached Bhopal and conveyed a strong message to both state and central BJP leadership that if things were not resolved, it may affect the party a lot.

The cabinet expansion was also a challenge for seasoned politician and the longest serving Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who said, “BJP is coming to power after 75 days. I would go for another cabinet expansion, if required.”

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