Bhopal: The single-member cabinet of Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh was expanded on Tuesday nearly a month after he was sworn in as Chief Minister of the state. Chouhan had taken oath for the fourth time, bringing the BJP back to power after the Congress government of Kamal Nath fell on losing its majority.
Five new ministers were sworn in on Tuesday afternoon by Governor Lalji Tandon at a low-key ceremony in Bhopal, amid the lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Former minister and six-time MLA Narottam Mishra, Meena Singh, Kamal Patel, Tulsiram Silawat and Govind Singh Rajput are now part of the cabinet. The latter two are loyalists of Jyotiraditya Scindia, who, along with 22 MLAs, quit the Congress and joined the BJP last month.
The portfolios, including the crucial Health Ministry, have not been allotted yet. Sources said each minister could be given two divisions for now. The portfolios are likely to be assigned after the second round of cabinet expansion on May 3, sources said.
The five ministers represent five different regions of Madhya Pradesh: Bundelkhand, Central Madhya Pradesh, Malwa-Nimar, Mahakoshal and Gwalior-Chambal.
The BJP returned to power in Madhya Pradesh at the time the country is fighting the coronavirus battle.
While none of the new ministers wore masks, Chief Minister Chouhan, Governor Lalji Tandon, some of the security personnel and officers were seen with masks on stage.
Madhya Pradesh is seventh in the list of states with the highest number of COVID-19 cases. The state has 1,540 cases including 76 deaths. There have also been several cases from the state of health workers on the coronavirus frontline being attacked by mobs.
The Congress, which is now in opposition in the state, had criticised the BJP government for not having a dedicated health minister as the state fights coronavirus. A senior official, had however, said it is factually incorrect to say that there is no minister of health in the state as the Chief Minister himself is the health minister. "It is factually incorrect to say that I do not have the health minister. I do have a health minister. The chief minister is the health minister as on date. As far as the legality of the issue is concerned it is absolutely clear to me as a government servant that I have a health minister," Additional Chief Secretary (Health), Mohammed Suleiman was quoted as saying by news agency PTI last week.
To a question on a large number of officials of the health department being tested positive for the coronavirus, the top IAS officer said the issue has hurt the image of the department but has not affected its working.
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