Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot may have tried to appease all communities and factions within the party by accomodating their members in his council of ministers but the Congress leader still faces many challenges. Voices of dissent have already started emerging from some tribal and minority MLAs against the party's choices, soon after the swearing-in ceremony of the new cabinet on Sunday evening.
At least three MLAs from the Congress party have expressed unhappiness over the new list of ministers inducted in the Gehlot cabinet. Six-time Congress MLA Dayaram Parmar from Kherwa constituency in Udaipur wrote an open letter to Gehlot mentioning his grievances over the reshuffle. The letter, that was circulated on social media reads, "What is the criteria of becoming a minister in Gehlot's cabinet? If I may know so that I too can become one". Dayaram has been a minister during the two previous regimes of the Gehlot government.
"I have been ignored because I am tribal. The junior-most MLAs have been promoted and reinducted but I have been left out. From the Udaipur constituency, no one has been given ministerial berth", Parmar told Outlook. While Parmar claims that he was left out because he was tribal, Gehlot's cabinet has at least three ministers from the Scheduled tribe category. Congress only has two seats from the Udaipur constituency, from where Parmar belongs.
Dayaram is not the only one to raise a voice against dissent. Another MLA from the tribal community, Johari Lal Meena from Alwar district, has also raised his dissent. Meena has shown his uneasiness over the promotion of Tikaram Jull, another MLA from Alwar in the cabinet. "Why has Jully been promoted from MoS to cabinet rank? Doesn't Gehlot know that he is a corrupt man? What credibility does he have to become a cabinet minister", a fuming Meena told the media. Jully is one of the three MoS promoted to cabinet rank on Sunday.
The cabinet reshuffle has seen an increase in the representation of women, with two cabinet ministers from the SC and Gujjar community and MoS from the Muslim community. Nevertheless, another Congress MLA Shafia Zubair questioned the low participation of women in the cabinet. "We keep talking about 33 per cent of women participation and Rajasthan cabinet we just have 10 per cent presence of women ministers. Why is it so ?" the Aklwar constituency MLA said.
The previous Ashok Gehlot cabinet had only one woman, Mamta Bhupesh, as MoS. Now in the reshuffle, Mamta has been promoted to cabinet minister along with Shakuntala Rawat and Zahida Khan has been inducted as MoS.
Reacting to the allegations made by the MLAs, the Congress state president Govind Singh Dotasra said, "This is one of the best team of ministers with representation from all regions and castes".
Addressing a press conference on Sunday, the Congress leader Sachin Pilot hailed the decision of inducting more women in the cabinet. "It is a good move to have more women ministers. In a way we are living up to Priyanka Gandhi's idea of having 40 per cent women representation in the government".
With 15 ministers inducted into the existing pool, Rajasthan now has 30 members in its council of ministers including Chief Minister Gehlot, the maximum it can have. Earlier it had 21 members in the council of ministers, including the chief minister. The Rajasthan Cabinet had nine vacancies but filling them was a tight rope walk for the party leadership.
Out of the 15 new ministers, five were among the eighteen loyalists of Sachin Pilot, who stood with him during the month-long political crisis that engulfed the state in July 2020.
Besides ensuring the truce within the two factions, the reshuffle clearly is done with an eye on Assembly elections just two years away. Gehlot has managed to include members of all communities in the cabinet. The new Rajasthan cabinet will have four Scheduled Caste (SC) members for the first time, three ministers from the Scheduled Tribe (ST) community and the cabinet will also have three women—Muslim, one from the SC community and one from Gujjar community.
On Sunday, six MLAs, including three Independents, have also been appointed advisers to Chief Minister Gehlot in Rajasthan, hours after 15 ministers took oath in a cabinet expansion.
The Congress MLAs who have been appointed advisers include Jitendra Singh, Rajkumar Sharma and Danish Abrar. Independent legislators Babu Lal Nagar, Sanyam Lodha and Ramkesh Meena have also been appointed advisers to Mr Gehlot, according to a list released by the Chief Minister's Office. All six MLAs are considered close to Mr Gehlot and were in the race to become ministers. After the oath ceremony was over, Gehlot said parliamentary secretaries, advisers and chairpersons of boards and corporations will be appointed soon.
In the Assembly of 200, the ruling Congress has 108 MLAs including six former BSP MLAs who later joined Congress, BJP has 71, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) three, CPI(M) and Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) two each and the Rashtriya Lok Dal one. Thirteen are independent legislators.