New Delhi: All eyes were on prime minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet reshuffle to see if he will follow the Bharatiya Janata Party central leadership’s diktat given to Madhya Pradesh where two senior ministers were dropped from the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet last week on grounds of crossing 75 years in age, reported India Today.
On Tuesday, Modi surprised many by retaining two ageing ministers: Najma Heptulla (76) and Kalraj Mishra (75).
It is turning out that the decision to sack former Madhya Pradesh CM and then Home Minister Babulal Gaur and then PWD Minister Sartaj Singh from the state cabinet on grounds of advanced age had nothing to do with a BJP central unit directive but instead, was a decision that was taken at the state level itself- at best, while taking the central unit into confidence.
On Tuesday, while the Union Cabinet expansion was taking place, there were no signs of elders – or those above 75 years, who were asked to resign. The developments were being closely watched in Madhya Pradesh where on June 30, Babulal Gaur and Sartaj Singh had been asked to resign on grounds that the central unit of BJP had decided that no one above 75 would continue as a minister.
Former Madhya Pradesh Public Works Department (PWD) minister Sartaj Singh expressed surprise that the Union Cabinet expansion did not witness removal of ministers on the same grounds. Sartaj Singh has decided to raise the matter with the central leadership now.
“I was told that the central unit of the party has decided that those above 75 years of age will not continue as ministers. I accepted this as a party decision but different yardsticks cannot be applied at different places,” said Sartaj Singh, who was also Union Health Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 13 day-government in 1996.
State BJP President Nandkumar Singh Chauhan gave a series of explanations for not following the same line in Delhi.
“This is a matter that pertains to the central leadership. I will have to ask them why the age directive was not followed in Union Cabinet,” said Nandkumar Chauhan, who had on June 30 delivered the message to Babulal Gaur and Sartaj Singh, asking them to resign.
“The decision to remove Babulal Gaur and Sartaj Singh was essentially taken by the state unit of the party after informing the central unit. The central unit was brought in strategically to strengthen the decision” said a central BJP leader on condition of anonymity.