Himachal cabinet to expand after PRI elections: Dhumal

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HimVani

Dharamsala (Dec 8): With its prestige at stake, the upcoming elections to Panchayati Raj institutions will not only be a litmus test for Bharatiya Janta Party government’s popularity, but also for its ministers.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal on Wednesday dropped hints about possible cabinet expansion after elections to PRIs and local bodies get over. A cabinet berth had fallen vacant after Forest Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda gave up his ministerial berth to take up new responsibilities as BJP’s national general secretary.

Nadda is in charge for party affairs in Chatisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir. “Cabinet berth would be filled once the code of conduct imposed for the PRI elections get over” Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said in an informal chat here this morning. Though Dhumal refrained from making direct mention to various queries, he said more parliamentary secretaries could be appointed after consultation with party high command. There are whispers that as many as three parliamentary secretaries could be appointed, one each from Kangra, Hamirpur and also from Chamba district.

It is learnt that since the government would complete its three years of rule in December end, there is strong possibility for appointing more parliamentary secretaries, apart from ministers, as the Dhumal cabinet has much at stake in the PRI elections.

Although the party has asked ministers to dissuade from interfering in selecting candidates for the PRI elections, performance of the ministers will also be one of the criteria for cabinet re-reshuffle.

The state government this time is also considering to extent the period of winter sojourn that was started by the Congress regime. During the winter sojourn, that usually starts from January, the government shifts to lower areas for a period of nearly one-and-half months. “We could think on extending the period of winter sojourn once work on the secretariat is completed,” said Dhumal, while he did not elaborate on the debate whether the government should continue to hold winter session in Dharamsala or not.

“I personally believe that extending the period of winter sojourn is more fruitful for the people rather than the Vidhan Sabha session, where one gets less or no time to meet the general public,” said Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, adding that plans were afoot to hold more Sarkar Janta Key Dwar programmes for spot redressal of the problems faced by the common man.