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Wednesday, October 14, 1998
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Sushma drops Rajendra Gupta
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Oct 13 — The Chief Minister of Delhi, Mrs Sushma Swaraj today inducted Mr Devinder Singh, a protege of Mr Sahib Singh Verma, in place of former Transport Minister Rajendra Gupta into the six-member ministry which was sworn in here today.

At a ceremony in Raj Nivas, the six ministers were administered the oath of office and secrecy by the Lt-Governor, Mr Vijai Kapoor. The Chief Minister retained the other five members of the Sahib Singh Verma Ministry.

Besides Mr Devinder Singh, those who were sworn in today are Mr Harsharan Singh Balli, Mr Surendra Pal Ratawal, Ms Poornima Sethi, Dr Harsh Vardhan and Prof Jagdish Mukhi.

Among those who attended the swearing-in ceremony were party president Kushabhau Thakre, Outer Delhi MP, K.L. Sharma, senior city BJP leader V.K. Malhotra and the president of the Delhi unit of the party, Mr Mange Ram Garg.

Talking to reporters after the ceremony, Mrs Swaraj said that Mr Rajendra Gupta was dropped to ensure that the Cabinet was "balanced". "Four ministers were from South Delhi. So one of them was dropped. The exercise was undertaken to strike a balance in the Cabinet," she said.

The four ministers from South Delhi in Mr Sahib Singh’s Cabinet were Mr Harsharan Singh Balli, Mr Jagdish Mukhi, Mr Rajendra Gupta, and Ms Poornima Sethi. The Chief Minister was herself elected from the South Delhi parliamentary constituency.

Mr Devendra Singh Shaukeen is an MLA from Nangloi, which falls within the Outer Delhi parliamentary constituency. "We wanted to give representation to people of Outer Delhi. So, we decided on giving a ministerial berth to Mr Devendra Singh," the Chief Minister said.

She pointed out that any major reshuffle was unlikely since there was little time left for the November 25 assembly elections.

The portfolios of the ministers would be announced later.

The Chief Minister hastened to add that the dropping of Mr Rajendra Gupta was "not a comment on his performance as a minister."

Mr Gupta, who arrived later, said that although he had been dropped, he would continue to work to strengthen the party.

The new minister, Mr Devendra Singh, said that a lot needed to be done especially in the rural areas. "I will begin work in the right earnest so that there is better future for the people of Delhi," he said.

The other ministers said that they would work with commitment.

Meanwhile, the BJP today described the removal of Mr Sahib Singh Verma and the installation of Mrs Sushma Swaraj as a "strategic move" to disarm the Opposition particularly the Congress.

Talking to mediapersons, party vice-president, K. L. Sharma said the Congress in particular had become defensive because of the strategic move. "They have been disarmed", he said.

Asked whether Mrs Swaraj would resign her South Delhi Lok Sabha seat and contest the forthcoming assembly elections, Mr Sharma said that the Central Election Committee of the party would decide the issue.

In another development, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) today announced that it would hold a meeting of its leaders on October 17 at Jind in Haryana to decide the continuation of support to the central government even as the BJP made attempts to play down the issue.

BJP general secretary M. Venkaiah Naidu, however, said there was no problem with the INLD. He said that he had spoken to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and there was no problem. Mr Vajpayee had apparently also spoken to the INLD leaders and tried to reason it out with them.

Senior INLD leader Om Prakash Chautala said that though the removal of Mr Sahib Singh Verma was an internal matter of the BJP, the decision pointed at the anti-farmer attitude of the party. He denied that any decision had yet been taken on the withdrawal of support to the government as reported in a section of the Press yesterday.

Former Chief Minister of Delhi Sahib Singh Verma also expressed hope that the INLD would not take any hasty decision regarding its support to the Vajpayee Government.

Talking to reporters here, Mr Verma said, "I have already spoken to Mr Om Prakash Chautala and urged him not to take any hasty decision".back

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