Pushkar Singh Dhami, 46, the 12th Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, has a mixed bag of new and experienced faces in his cabinet. Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Hembati Nandan Bahuguna’s grandson Sourav Bahuguna has been appointed as a minister for the first time. The Dhami cabinet can accommodate a total of eleven ministers. However, Rekha Arya, the only female minister, administered the oath of office to eight people on Wednesday. There are still three vacancies in the cabinet.
Interestingly, four senior leaders, including state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Madan Kaushik, are hoping for ministerial posts. Apart from Kaushik, Bishan Singh Chupal, Arvind Pandey and Banshidhar Bhagat’s hopes for ministerial posts have also been dashed. All three were ministers during the previous regime.
However, there is some hope for Chupal, a six-time MLA representing the Didihat constituency in the border district of Pithoragarh. Party insiders say he could vacate the seat for Chief Minister Dhami, who is due to be elected to the state assembly within six months after losing the recent MLA election. In return, Chupal may be sent to the Rajya Sabha. A day before the swearing-in ceremony, he told News18 that he was “ready to accept any order from the party.”
The balance of the caste equation
Among the nine cabinet members, including CM Dhami, are three Brahmins, three Thakurs, two Dalits and one Vaishya. The BJP has tried to balance the caste equation. The two upper castes – Brahmins and Thakurs – are given equal representation, followed by Dalits and Vaishyas. Prem Chandra Agarwal, a veteran party MLA of Vaishya caste, was the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly during the previous regime. He will be the Minister during this term.
Two Dalit ministers – Rekhya Arya and Chandan Ram Das – are from the Kumaon region. Similarly, the Chief Minister is the only Tagore face in Kumaon while the other two Tagore ministers – Satpal Maharaj and Dhan Singh – are residents of Garhwal area. Two Brahmin faces – Ganesh Joshi and Subodh Union – represent the assembly constituency in the Garhwal region, and the third, Sourav, represents the Sitarganj constituency in Kumaon.
In the last few days, there have been rumors surrounding Ritu Khanduri who has avenged the defeat of her father, Major General BC Khanduri, the former chief minister of the state. In the recent assembly elections, Ritu won from Kotdwar, which her father lost in 2012. Twice MLA Ritu Khanduri will be appointed as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The decision was taken at a high-level BJP meeting in the state capital.
Ritu will be the first woman speaker of the state assembly. Although his father, BC Khanduri, is not active in mainstream politics due to his age, he enjoys great respect among the people. The large support base of women for the BJP in the recent elections has also helped to promote Ritu.
Interestingly, Ritu and first time minister Sourav Mamato are brothers. Sourav’s father Vijay Bahuguna was also the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand from 2012 to 2014. Veteran Bahuguna was instrumental in breaking up the Congress party in 2016. As a result, 10 MLAs then joined the BJP. One of them is Subodh Union, a minister for the second time in a religious government. Uniyal is considered to be very close.
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