Loyalists get plum posts, detractors up ante
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Barely a week in office, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has begun consolidating his position by accommodating loyalists, including those who had lost the Assembly elections, in plum positions in PSU's and government bodies. This, even as half a dozen of his detractor MLAs have begun regrouping in New Delhi.
A day after he assumed office, Virbhadra appointed four-time MLA Kuldeep Pathania as the chairman of the HP State Pollution Control Board while another loyalist, former forest minister Ram Lal Thakur, was made the chairman of the HP State planning Board and 20-Point Programme Implementation with cabinet rank. Both Thakur and Pathania had lost the Assembly polls.
PCC vice-president and former minister Harsh Mahajan, another Virbhadra loyalist who did not contest the polls, has been appointed as the chairman of HP State Cooperative Bank — a profit making apex cooperative bank.
The new appointments, however, have come close on the heels of the chief minister's detractors raising the pitch over being completely ignored in the cabinet formation, with some new anti-Virbhadra alignments having emerged. Those camping at New Delhi were hardly seen at the swearing-in-ceremony and include Asha Kumari, Brij Bihari Butail, Rakesh Kalia, Sohan Lal, Kishori Lal and Ravi Thakur.
Congress sources said the MLAs — who had earlier met Congress president Sonia Gandhi along with Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur — have stepped up their campaign alleging 'political bias' despite a few having sufficient seniority to make it to the Cabinet, or even to the chief Parliamentary secretary posts. "We have already appraised the AICC general secretary Birender Singh about our grievances. If nothing comes of it, we will approach Sonia Gandhi once again," a newly elected MLA said here.
What seems to have triggered the 'rebellion' is the chief minister reportedly getting Sonia's nod to fill the two vacant cabinet slots with his loyalists — Anil Sharma, son of former Union Minister Sukh Ram, and former Kullu MLA Karan Singh.
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