Chhattisgarh Cabinet Expansion Sees 3 Tribal Leaders, Including a Woman, Named Ministers
Raipur: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Tuesday led the first expansion of his Cabinet by inducting nine Congress MLAs, including a woman legislator, as ministers.
Baghel took oath as Chhattisgarh Chief Minister on December 17, after the Congress won the state Assembly election with a thumping majority. Two other senior Congress leaders and legislators, TS Singh Deo and Tamradhwaj Sahu, were also sworn in as Ministers that day.
Sahu is a prominent OBC face of the Congress in Chhattisgarh while Deo represents the general category.
Of the nine new faces inducted into the cabinet on Tuesday, two represent the SCs, three STs, one each is from the OBC, minority and the general categories.
The Chhattisgarh Cabinet can have a maximum of 13 ministers, including the Chief Minister.
With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections round the corner, caste equations assume importance in the state.
Congress working presidents — Shiv Deharia and Guru Rudra Kumar, from the SC community, have been offered ministerial berths.
Guru Rudra Kumar represents the influential Satnami sect in Chhattisgarh.
Among others, senior MLAs – Ravindra Chaubey and Jai Singh Agrawal come from general category, Kawardha MLA Md Akbar is a former minister and represents minority community while the lone woman minister in the cabinet – Anila Bhedia — hails from the ST community and is the senior most woman MLA of the state Congress.
Former Ajit Jogi close aide and the Konta MLA Kawasi Lakhma and Pratapur MLA Dr Premsai Singh Tekam also represent the STs.
Umesh Patel, 35, son of former Congress veteran Nand Kumar Patel, is the young face of the cabinet who had defeated bureaucrat-turned-politician OP Chaudhary from Kharasia Assembly seat which was earlier represented by his father.
Durg region has maximum representation in the cabinet with five ministers from the region — Ravindra Chaubey, Tamradhwaj Sahu, Anila Bhedia, Md Akbar and Rudra Guru, besides the Chief Minister himself, who comes from Patan in Durg.
Kawasi Lakhma and Shiv Deharia represent Bastar and Raipur region respectively. Lakhma is among few survivors of the Jhiram valley attack which had wiped out the Congress top leadership in 2013.
After the swearing in, supporters of senior MLA Dhanendra Sahu gathered at the PCC and raised slogans in their leader’s support who was denied a ministerial berth. The party workers also took objections to excessive representation offered to Durg region in the cabinet expansion.
With the name of senior leader Charandas Mahant missing from the cabinet, speculations are rife that he could be appointed speaker of the Assembly or could be given any key responsibility in New Delhi.