Amid questions over the delay, the expansion of the Rajasthan cabinet will take place on Saturday, with the BJP seeking to strike a balance between new and experienced faces as well as caste equations. Sources have told NDTV that between 22 and 25 MLAs are expected to take oath as ministers and three MPs-turned-MLAs, who have resigned from the Lok Sabha, are likely to find a place in the cabinet.
The BJP had sprung a surprise in the state when it picked first-time MLA Bhajan Lal Sharma as the chief minister and Diya Kumari and Prem Chand Bairwa as his deputies.
Three key contenders for a place in Mr Sharma’s cabinet are Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore from the Jhotwara assembly constituency, Kirodi Lal Meena from the Sawai Madhopur seat and Baba Balak Nath from the Tijara constituency. At least two of these three former MPs were seen as frontrunners for the chief minister’s post and had resigned from the Lok Sabha after the election results were declared. Baba Balak Nath is popularly called the ‘Yogi of Rajasthan’.
Among the other frontrunners are Mahant Pratap Puri, who had defeated a sitting Congress minister in Pokaran in western Rajasthan, and former minister and five-time MLA Anita Bhadel.
Some of the other probables are: Jhabar Singh Kharra, Jogeshwar Garg, Sumit Godara, Deepti Kiran Maheshwari, Pabba Ram Bishnoi, Bhera Ram Siyol, Nauksham Chaudhary, Jitendra Gothwal, Jawahar Singh Bedam, Udayalal Bhadana, Shrichand Kriplani, Hansraj Patel, Jethanand Vyas, Phool Singh Meena, Ajay Singh Kilak, Sidhi Kumari, Pushpendra Singh Ranawat, Kailash Verma, Sanjay Sharma, Shailesh Singh, Shatrughan Gautam, Manju Baghmar, Heeralal Nagar, Pratap Singh Singhvi and Madan Dilawar.
Bhajan Lal Sharma is a Brahmin while Diya Kumari is a Rajput and Prem Chand Bairwa is a scheduled caste leader. To balance caste equations, the cabinet is expected to see faces from the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), which make up 35-40% of the state’s population.
Mr Sharma, who had taken oath on December 15, was in Delhi last week and had met the BJP brass, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda. Probable names for the cabinet were said to have been discussed.
In last-month’s elections, the results of which were declared on December 3, the BJP had won 115 of the state’s 200 seats. The Congress, under Ashok Gehlot, which was hoping that its welfare schemes would help it buck the state’s revolving-door trend, was reduced to 69 seats. The party has questioned the BJP over the delay in the cabinet expansion.
Governor Kalraj Mishra will administer the oath of office to the ministers at the Raj Bhavan in Jaipur at 3:15 pm. The state can have a maximum of 30 ministers, including the chief minister.