Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday carried out a major expansion of his cabinet, inducting 28 new members, a dozen of them former Congress MLAs whose rebellion contributed in the collapse of the Congress government in March.
Of the 28 new ministers, 16 are Bharatiya Janata Party legislators, while 12 are former Congress MLAs -- most of them Jyotiraditya Scindia supporters -- who joined the saffron outfit more than three months and will now have to face bypolls.
The much-awaited expansion indicates Scindia, now a BJP Rajya Sabha MP, managed to get several of his supporters accommodated in the Chouhan cabinet.
Governor Anandiben Patel administered the oath of office to the ministers at Raj Bhawan. COVID-19 protocols were followed at the swearing in ceremony.
The new ministers include 20 of cabinet rank and eight ministers of state. The Chouhan ministry strength is now 34.
In expanding his team, Chouhan went for a mix of new and old faces. Fifteen new faces and 13 former ministers have been inducted in the cabinet.
However, names of some Chouhan loyalists such as senior MLAs Rampal Singh, Rajendra Shukla, Gaurishanker Bisen and Sanjay Pathak are missing from the list.
Former Union minister Scindia's exit from the Congress in March had led to the fall of the Kamal Nath-led government and return of the BJP to power after 15 months.
In this backdrop, the cabinet expansion had assumed significance. Nine of the 12 former Congress MLAs who joined the ministry are considered Scindia loyalists.
In the earlier expansion on April 21, Tulsi Silawat and Govind Singh Rajput -- both loyalists of Scindia -- were sworn as ministers along with three BJP MLAs.
Chouhan took oath as chief minister for a record fourth term on March 23 after Nath resigned from the post following rebellion by 22 MLAs of the Congress.
Former BJP ministers including Gopal Bhargava, Vijay Shah, Jagdish Devda, Yashodhara Raje Scindia, Bhupendra Singh, Brajendra Pratap Singh and Vishwas Sarang were among those inducted in Thursday's expansion.
From the Scindia camp, Imarti Devi, Prabhuram Choudhary, Mahendra Singh Sisodia, Pyadyumna Singh Tomar, Rajwardhan Singh Dattigaon were inducted as cabinet ministers, while Brajendra Singh Yadav, Girraj Dandotia, Suresh Dhakad and OPS Bhadoria were sworn in as ministers of state.
Bisahulal Singh, Hardeep Singh Dang and Aidal Singh Kansana (all cabinet ministers) were also among the Congress MLAs who rebelled but they are not considered close to Scindia.
From the BJP, Prem Singh Patel, Om Prakash Saklecha, Usha Thakur, Arvind Bhadoria and Mohan Yadav were inducted as cabinet ministers, while Bharat Singh Kushwaha, Inder Singh Parmar, Ramkhelavan Patel and Ram Kishore Kavre took oath as ministers of state.
With the induction of Yashodhara Raje Scindia, Imarti Devi and Usha Thakur, the state now has four women ministers.
In the first expansion, Meena Singh was sworn-in.
"The BJP central leadership wanted new faces in the cabinet and it had its way," senior journalist Rakesh Dixit
He said talks of expansion were going on since the last two months, but finally it took place days after Chouhan met BJP central leadership, Dixit added.
The expansion has taken place with an eye on the upcoming assembly by-elections, political analyst Keshav
Of the 24 assembly seats which will go to the bypolls, 16 are in Gwalior-Chambal divisions, where Scindia enjoys considerable influence.
From these two divisions seven from Scindias camp and three BJP MLAs, Yashodhara Raje Scindia, Arvind Bhandoria and Bharat Singh Kushwaha have been made cabinet ministers, Pandey said.
The BJP has do well in the by-elections to provide stability to its government.
Currently, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the 230-member assembly whose effective strength now is 206. The Congress has 92 MLAs.
Chouhan, Scindia and Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar were among those present at the Raj Bhawan ceremony.