He might not expand it before the current ‘inauspicious phase’.
Hyderabad: TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), who won a massive mandate in the Assembly elections and was sworn in as the Chief Minister on 13 December, is running his Cabinet with only one minister—Mohammad Mahmood Ali who looks after the crucial Home portfolio. There are indications that KCR might not expand before the current “inauspicious phase” that ends only by 14 January.
If that is so, he will be the first Chief Minister in the country to run a Cabinet with only one single minister for a month or more. Interestingly, Mahmood Ali is not elected to the Assembly as he is an MLC. All the 87 elected MLAs (besides KCR) of the TRS are eagerly waiting for the full-fledged Cabinet formation so that some of them could get coveted ministerial posts. Telangana can have a Cabinet with 18 ministers.
The “inauspicious period” is also coming in the way of convening of the first session of the Assembly where the newly elected MLAs will take their oath. The present indications suggest that the legislature will meet only after Sankranti festival, on 14 January. The election of the Speaker and deputy speaker too will be conducted only then.
This time it is a problem of plenty for KCR. In an Assembly of 119 MLAs, his party won 88, 26 more than the tally of 2014. Apart from them, two Independents—Ramulu Naik and K. Chander—have joined TRS, taking its number to 90. In addition to this, two TDP MLAs and five to six Congress MLAs are said to be ready to defect to the ruling party whenever the Assembly meets.
KCR’s decision to delay the formation of Cabinet and convening of the Assembly are stated to be less to do with the auspicious time and more to do with the sweeping changes he is contemplating both in the ministry and the party set-up. The CM, who has made his son KT Rama Rao (KTR) as the working president of the TRS, is in the process of forming a suitable to team for the future leader.
KCR appears to be making some drastic changes in the existing team of ministers. While four ministers and the Speaker had lost the elections, the CM is planning to drop some of the seniors. He has already done away with the posts of deputy CMs (there were two earlier). Speculation is rife over the fate of his nephew and TRS strongman T. Harish Rao who was Irrigation Minister in the previous Cabinet.
KCR has indicated that he would keep the irrigation ministry with him and has been inspecting all the major irrigation projects in the last few days. Shifting of a senior official, Sridhar Deshpande, who was the OSD to Harish Rao earlier, to the CM office on Thursday created commotion in political circles. It is to be seen if Harish would be inducted into the Cabinet.
KCR has announced that he would be interested in moving over to national politics and spend time in forming a federal front with non-BJP and non-Congress parties. KCR had met Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik and Bengal CM Mamata on 22 and 23 December last year. KCR would be visiting Delhi again in February to lay the foundation stone for his party office, sources close to him told this newspaper.
KCR has indicated to his party leaders recently that he would be forming his Cabinet in two phases—the first phase with eight to nine ministers soon and the remaining ministers would be added after the Lok Sabha elections by June. The CM is also planning to appoint Parliamentary Secretaries, a system followed in some states, to accommodate more MLAs in government posts.
The CM has said that he was planning to re-group the departments scattered among different ministries now. For instance, all agriculture related departments like cooperation, marketing and animal husbandry would be brought under a single ministry. This would help improve the performance of various ministries, he said.
Besides, KCR would send some of the senior ministers from the previous Cabinet to Lok Sabha and he wants the new Cabinet to be with young faces so as to work with KTR. The fate of former deputy CM Kadiam Srihari, too, hangs in balance as he is learnt to be fielded for Lok Sabha. Another senior leader and former home minister N. Narasimha Reddy, an MLC, may not get the minister post again.
Some senior leaders in the party who shared informal discussions with KCR recently told this newspaper that the CM was mulling major changes to ensure an efficient team of Cabinet and an experienced team for the Parliament. As KCR doesn’t consult any of his party leaders on any major issue, the elected MLAs are spending anxious moments to know their fate.
They are anxious as there are reports that the formation of the Cabinet might be further delayed as the election schedule for Panchayats was announced. As per the schedule, all villages will go to elections in three phases till the end of January. If the state election commission objects to the Cabinet formation, the ministerial expansion can happen only in February first week.