It is too early to talk about a possible replacement for Manish Sisodia in the cabinet, Delhi government sources said on Monday, a day after the deputy chief minister was arrested by the CBI in the excise policy scam case.
While there is no doubt that Sisodia will continue to be a minister like his cabinet colleague Satyendar Jain, who is in jail over money laundering charges, his departments will be distributed among others, they said.
There are speculations that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal may take over some of the key portfolios currently held by his deputy.
Sisodia holds 18 of the 33 departments of Delhi governments, including key portfolios such as education, finance and public works department (PWD).
His workload increased after Satyendar Jain was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in May last year. Sisodia was handed over Jain's portfolios such as health, industries, power, home, urban development, irrigation and flood control, and water.
The BJP has demanded that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should remove Sisodia and Jain from the cabinet.
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The Delhi cabinet should be "reshuffled immediately", Leader of Opposition in the Assembly and BJP MLA Ramvir Singh Bidhuri said.
On Monday, the AAP office here was abuzz with speculations about the future though the common refrain was that Sisodia and Jain will remain part of the cabinet.
"A new minister cannot be inducted since Article 239AA of the Constitution of India says that there shall be a Council of Ministers consisting of not more than ten per cent of the total number of members in the Legislative Assembly, with the Chief Minister at the head.... The portfolios will be distributed among the existing ministers with there being a strong possibility that Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot might take over finance," said a source.
Though there has been no decision yet on who will take over Sisodia's portfolios, party sources indicated that Revenue Minister Kailash Gahlot may present the Delhi government budget for the next financial year.
"As there was a possibility that the deputy chief minister may be arrested by the CBI, Gahlot was attending budget-related meetings for the last few days. Gahlot is likely to present the 2023-24 budget. It is scheduled to be presented next month," an AAP functionary earlier told PTI.
Sisodia's arrest might also put the party's national expansion plans in jeopardy, sources said.
However, a senior party leader said, "Now everyone in the country will know who is Delhi's education minister. After today, I don't think anyone will ask who is Manish Sisodia. We have always got the love of people and in the past we have seen that whenever a party leader has been arrested, the party's donations have risen indicating that its growing popularity."
A special CBI court on Monday remanded Sisodia to five-day custody of the central probe agency till March 4.
The CBI on Sunday evening arrested Sisodia in connection with alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped liquor policy for 2021-22.
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