Cong prefers experience over youth in Gehlot team
New Delhi: With an eye on general elections in 2019, the Congress on Monday picked seasoned hands in the team of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who expanded his Cabinet with the swearing in of 23 ministers.
In a total 13 cabinet and 10 state ministers took the oath of secrecy in Rajasthan, while the cabinet expansion in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is expected to take place on Tuesday under the leadership of Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel in their respective states.
According to party insiders, all the three chief ministers, who were sworn in on December 17 after the Congress's win in three out of the five states that went to the polls in November and December, have been tipped by party high command to prefer experience over youth.
In Rajasthan, Gehlot had forwarded a list of 40 contenders for ministerial berths to Congress president Rahul Gandhi for the cabinet expansion. Gehlot and his deputy, Sachin Pilot, returned to Jaipur on Sunday after Gandhi approved the list of the members of the cabinet.
Eighteen legislators including Subhash Garg of RLD are first time ministers, while the other five have held ministerial posts earlier, as efforts were made to have a mix of young faces and experienced legislators from both Gehlot and Pilot camps. The cabinet includes one woman, Mamta Bhupesh, and a Muslim face, Saleh Mohammad.
Portfolios of the ministers are yet to be allotted.
Pilot said the formation of the cabinet reflects a balance between age and experience, caste and different geographical regions.
"It is a balanced cabinet. We have a lot of people who are being given chance for the first time and also some who got experience in earlier Congress governments. So it is a balance between geographical regions, different communities, and between experience and age," Pilot said.
"It is a forward looking, fully charged energetic cabinet. We have added 23 ministers to our existing strength and the government is fully equipped to deal with the challenges and expectations people have from us, he said.
Of the 23 newly inducted ministers, Shanti Kumar Dhariwal, Master Bhanwar Lal Meghwal, Pramod Jain Bhaya and Parsadi Lal Meena were ministers in former Congress government (2008-13) while BD Kalla was the minister in Congress government (1998-2003).
Both these governments were led by Ashok Gehlot, who has now become the chief minister of the state for a third time.
Apart from the member of the erstwhile royal family of Bharatpur and influential Jat leader of eastern Rajasthan Vishvendra Singh, Harish Choudhary, Lalchand Kataria and Govind Singh Dotasara are Jat leaders who have found a place in the council of ministers. Kataria, who won the 2009 Lok Sabha election, was a union minister of state while Govind Singh Dotasara was the chief whip of Congress during the previous BJP government's tenure.