Trivendra Singh Rawat's Cabinet Has 5 Congress Turncoats, Dalit Leaders

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Eleven, out of the 57 legislators elected from BJP to the state assembly, are former Congressmen.

Dehradun:  A long-time RSS pracharak, Trivendra Singh Rawat was sworn-in as the ninth Chief Minister of Uttarakhand yesterday. Besides him, seven cabinet ministers and two state ministers also took oath in Dehradun's historic parade ground.

The new cabinet has new several new faces and an equal representation from Kumaon and Garhwal regions of the hill state.

Out of the nine cabinet ministers sworn-in, the BJP leadership has picked five turncoats, who were earlier associated with the Congress. The five - Harak Singh Rawat, Yashpal Arya, Rekha Arya, Subodh Uniyal and Satpal Maharaj - fought the assembly elections on BJP ticket and won.

Eleven of the 57 legislators elected from BJP to the state assembly are former Congress members.

Satpal Maharaj, a former Congress lawmaker, joined BJP immediately after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He was also a front-runner for the Chief Minister's position this year.

"We are part of the BJP wholly; we are aligned with the ethics and ideology of the party and hope that all our future actions in the cabinet affirm that," he told NDTV.

Yashpal Arya, a Dalit leader and former state Congress chief, joined BJP a month before the assembly elections. "If there is one person who believes in the idea of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. To be a good leader, one must have the space to perform. And the BJP cabinet presents a disciplined and decisive set of people poised to do just that," Mr Arya said.

However, the party leadership's decision was met with raised eyebrows and state-level party members questioning the move.

"I am an old worker of the party for 20 years. What I say, all workers will say as well. Of all our loyal and experienced ministers, you appoint only four? The majority being turncoats? This is not just," BJP member SC Sharma said.

"The new Chief Minister himself has been awarded for his loyalty to the party and the RSS. And what does he do? Appoint five ministers who have shifted allegiances and about whose track record the state cadres are distrustful. Surely there is a mistake somewhere," said another worker, who refused to be named.

Hours after his swearing-in ceremony, Chief Minister Rawat held the first cabinet meeting of the state.

Speaking to NDTV, Mr Rawat denied allegations that the new BJP cabinet is a patchwork of former Congress leaders.

"They (turncoats) have won assembly seats on the BJP symbol. They each have a long political career. We have rewarded them for their experience", he said.

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On selecting two Dalit leaders - Yashpal Arya and Rekha Arya - in the new cabinet, a senior BJP functionary said, "Of course, it is a new political strategy of the BJP. A party that had always been a Savarna party had to change for the sake of political expedience. But let's see whether this is really change that lasts, or rewards."

"You will see what dividends this (strategy of Dalit outreach) pays us in the near future," said Satpal Maharaj.

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