BHOPAL, Aug 26: Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Saturday expanded his
cabinet by inducting three BJP MLAs as ministers, a move coming just a few months ahead of the
state assembly polls and apparently aimed at balancing caste and regional equations in the council.
While one of the three new ministers – Rajendra Shukla – is a Brahmin, two others – Gaurishankar
Bisen and Rahul Lodhi – belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) community.
With their induction, there are now 34 members in the Chouhan-led cabinet. As per the
constitutional provisions, the number could go up to 35.
State Governor Mangubhai Patel administered the oath of office as ministers to Shukla, Bisen and
Lodhi at the Raj Bhavan here around 9 am.
Shukla, a Brahmin leader and four-time MLA from Rewa in the Vindh region was a former minister.
Bisen, a seven-time legislator from Balaghat in the Mahakoshal region, is also the chairman of the
MP Backward Class Commission, while Lodhi is a first-time MLA from Khargapur in Tikamgarh district
of the Bundelkhand region.
While Shukla (59) and Bisen (71) took oath as cabinet ministers, Lodhi (46) was sworn-in as a
minister of state. They are yet to be allotted portfolios, a Raj Bhavan official told PTI.
Lodhi is a nephew of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Madhya Pradesh minister
Uma Bharti, who has been opposing the liquor policy of the Chouhan-led government and earlier
took to the streets over the issue.
Bisen and Lodhi belong to the OBC community that makes up more than 45 per cent of the
population of Madhya Pradesh.
The inclusion of Shukla into the cabinet takes the number of ministers from the state’s Vindh region
to four, while Bisen’s induction takes this count from Mahakoshal region to two. With Lodhi’s
swearing-in the number of ministers from the impoverished Bundelkhand region has increased to
BJP sources said the cabinet expansion was carried out on the recommendation of the party’s
central leadership to beat anti-incumbency, balance caste equations and address regional
The last expansion of the Chouhan cabinet took place in January 2021, months after he returned as
the state chief minister for the fourth term.
Even after the expansion carried out on Saturday, there is still room for one more minister in the
cabinet going by the convention that the strength of the council of ministers should be 15 per cent
of the House. The Madhya Pradesh assembly has 230 members.
Political observers said the inclusion of Shukla in the cabinet will benefit the BJP in consolidating its
position in the Vindh region, where Vindh Janata Party (VJP), a new political outfit backed by BJP
MLA and a strong Brahmin leader Narayan Tripathi, will contest the upcoming assembly elections for
the first time, during which it plans to fight all 30 seats in the Vindh region.
In the 2018 assembly elections, the BJP won 24 seats in the Vindh area, while the Congress could bag
only six. This time, it has to beat anti-incumbency in the region where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is
trying to make inroads, they said.
Likewise, the induction of Bisen is likely to mollify the people who feel that they were neglected by
the BJP. Before Bisen, there was just one minister from the area where the BJP’s showing in the last
assembly elections was poor, they added.
In the last elections, the Congress won 24 seats, while the BJP managed to get 13 seats out of 38
assembly segments in the Mahakoshal region. An independent candidate won one seat.
Lodhi’s inclusion may also benefit the BJP in the Bundelkhand region bordering Uttar Pradesh.
The saffron party had put up a good show in the last election in the Bundelkhand region with 29
seats. It won 15 while the Congress had to be content with nine. One seat each went to the
Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Lodhis account for a considerable chunk of OBC and yield power in rural MP.
The BJP had wrested power from the Congress in MP in 2003. Since then, it has been at the helm of
affairs in the state, barring the 15-month period between December 2018 and March 2020 when
Congress was in power with Kamal Nath as the chief minister.
In the 2018 assembly polls, the Congress won 114 out of the 230 seats, while the BJP finished second
with 109 seats.
The Congress went on to form a coalition government with the support of independents, BSP and SP
under Kamal Nath. However, that government collapsed after 15 months when a number of
Congress MLAs loyal to Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the BJP, paving the way for the return of BJP’s
Shivraj Singh Chouhan as chief minister. (PTI)