Ranchi, Oct. 28: Jharkhand lost representation in the Union cabinet as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today effected a major revamp of his council of ministers, dropping Subodh Kant Sahay, the lone Congress member from the state in the Lok Sabha.
Sahay resigned yesterday after a meeting with Sonia Gandhi.
The Prime Minister also did not consider hopefuls Pradeep Balmuchu and Dhiraj Sahu as Sahay’s replacement triggering speculation about the Congress high command’s next move for the party in Jharkhand.
According to sources, Balmuchu was lobbying for a berth through senior Congress leader Oscar Fernandes while Sahu was keen to become a minister through Motilal Vora if coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal was dropped in the wake of the coalgate scam.
Though an adverse intelligence report against the duo was cited by a section of the media for “last minute changes in the probable ministers’ list by the PMO”, state Congress leaders pointed out that the leadership wanted the Jharkhand unit to perform first and then claim a pound of flesh.
“If we have only one representative in the Lok Sabha, how dare we claim berths in the Union cabinet? First, we need to prove our worth in the eyes of the party high command. In 1984, the Congress had won all 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand region. In 2004, we won six seats. Where do we stand now?” said Opposition leader Rajendra Prasad Singh.
He said states like Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh had not been represented in the Union cabinet in the past. “So, it does not matter for the party’s health if somebody from the state is not in the cabinet,” was his take.
“We believe that the decision to ignore Jharkhand was an imprint of Rahul Gandhi, who visited the state on September 25-26 and again rushed party in charge Shakeel Ahmad to get feedback from party leaders in a sealed envelope on October 3,” a senior Congress leader pointed out.
He added that Balmuchu, who had been president of the state Congress for long, should be held responsible if the party was weak in the state.
“Had Balmuchu or Sahu, a first time RS member, found berth as replacement of Sahay, it would have worsened factionalism within the party. Sahay, who is considered a heavyweight and the spine of Jharkhand Congress, would never like somebody very junior to emerge as another power centre,” said another Congress leader.
Ahmad, however, had a simpler explanation. “There was no Lok Sabha member to replace Sahayji. So, that could have been a reason for not giving berths. There was charcha of Balmuchu. But I have no information why was he not finally considered,” Ahmad told The Telegraph.
Meanwhile, Sahay said he did not have any grievances against the party leadership’s decision. “I have been a central minister for the last eight-and-a-half years. Now Soniaji has asked me to work for the party. I worked for the party organisation till 2004,” he said.
Refusing to comment on the reasons for Balmuchu, his bete noire, not being considered for the post, Sahay said he happened to be the senior-most in parliamentary politics in the Congress from Jharkhand — implying that he could not have been replaced by junior leaders like Balmuchu and Sahu.
Sahay denied that he had been removed due to his name cropping up in the coalgate scam. “It’s true that I recommended coal linkage for a company where my brother was director. But that’s all,” he said.
Balmuchu could not be contacted.