Shivraj Singh Chouhan expands council of ministers, inducts 3 new members

BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Saturday expanded his council of ministers by inducting three members, including one in the cabinet, ahead of the Assembly polls slated later this year.
After the oath-taking ceremony of the new ministers, the chief minister said another cabinet expansion is on the cards.
BJP legislators Balkrishna Patidar, Narayan Singh Kushwaha and Jalam Singh Patel were inducted in the council of ministers.
While Kushwaha was given cabinet rank, Patidar and Patel were made ministers of state. Their portfolios would be announced later.
This is the second time that Kushwaha is serving in the Cabinet led by Chouhan, who is in office since November 2005.
The three MLAs were administered the oath of office by governor Anandiben Patel at a function in the Raj Bhavan here this morning.
Besides Chouhan, senior ministers of his cabinet and top officials were present on the occasion.
Patidar, who belongs to the Nimar region, is the MLA from Khargone, while Kushwaha comes from the Gwalior-Chambal region and represents Gwalior South in the Assembly.
Jalam Singh Patel hails from the Mahakaushal region. The MLA from Narsinghpur is the younger brother of BJP MP and former Union minister Prahlad Singh Patel.
Chouhan told newspersons another expansion of his team would be undertaken soon.
“We have got new colleagues… This will enhance our strength and we will be able to use their expertise. Another brief expansion would be done soon,” he said.
The Congress had opposed the expansion of the council of ministers in view of enforcement of model code of conduct in two assembly constituencies — Mungaoli and Kolaras – where bypolls are scheduled on February 24.
Replying to a question, Chouhan said, “Raising questions without any basis has become a habit of the Congress. Cabinet expansion is a prerogative of the chief minister and I have exercised it.”

The expansion is being seen by some as an attempt by the BJP to balance regional aspirations of the people of the state, where assembly polls are expected by the year-end.

Before today’s expansion, the Chouhan government, in its third term, had 20 Cabinet ministers, including the chief minister, and nine ministers of state.
According to constitutional provisions, the state can have a maximum of 35 ministers.
The BJP is in power in Madhya Pradesh since 2003.