Chandigarh: After 18 days of dilly-dallying, the BJP-led Khattar government in Haryana on Thursday expanded the state Cabinet for the first time by inducting 10 ministers, including one from its alliance partner, a lone woman and an Independent.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar gave representation to three Jats in the expansion that increased their strength in the government to four, the largest from any community, followed by two Punjabis and two belonging to the Scheduled Caste.
The Cabinet can have 14 members, including the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister, with two slots kept for future expansion.
Haryana Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya administered the oath of office to six Cabinet Ministers and four Ministers of State (independent charge) at a simple ceremony in Raj Bhawan that lasted for less than an hour.
The government now has eight BJP ministers besides Khattar (65), who is at the helm for a second consecutive term.
The saffron party’s post-poll alliance partner Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), a defector of the state’s once prominent regional outfit Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), got a lone minister in Anoop Dhanak along with Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala (31).
Jat leader Dushyant Chautal is the youngest in the government and highly qualified too.
The ministers inducted on Thursday include six-time Ambala (Cantonment) legislator Anil Vij, who was the Health Minister in the previous government; former Speaker and three-time legislator Kanwar Pal Gujjar, an Other Backward Class (OBC) leader, and BJP’s Dalit face Banwari Lal, who was previously a Minister of State.
Khattar and Vij are from the Punjabi community.
The other new Cabinet ministers from the BJP quota are two-time Legislator Mool Chand Sharma and first-timer and Jat leader J.P. Dalal, the richest minister with assets worth Rs 76.75 crore.
The lone woman in the cabinet is BJP’s Kamlesh Dhanda, who belongs to the Jat community that comprises 28 per cent of the state’s population. Her husband Narsingh Dhanda was a former minister.
In the previous government, Khattar had given representation to just two Jats.
Second time legislator Dhanak of the JJP was inducted as the Minister of State.
The lone Independent who got the Cabinet berth was Ranjit Chautala, the estranged brother of four-time Chief Minister and INLD President Om Prakash Chautala.
Ranjit Chautala, who was the first to extend unconditional support to the BJP, is the eldest member in the government. He was also a minister in the Devi Lal cabinet.
BJP’s first-time legislator and former India hockey captain Sandeep Singh was inducted into the government as a Minister of State.
Donning a saffron turban, Sandeep Singh took oath in Punjabi.
A day before the cabinet expansion, the Governor allocated 11 portfolios, including the key departments of Revenue and Disaster Management, Excise and Taxation, and Industry to Dushyant Chautala.
The Chief Minister kept Home, Finance, Urban Local Bodies and Town and Country Planning with himself.
Both Khattar and Dushyant Chautala took oath of office on October 27.
The Assembly polls were held on October 21 and the results were declared on October 24. The BJP won 40 seats, six short of majority in the 90-member Haryana Assembly.
Besides 10 JJP legislators, seven Independents extended support to the BJP, helping it reach a tally of 57 seats.
The Congress won 31 seats, improving its tally from 19 in 2014.
BJP’s eight outgoing ministers — Captain Abhimanyu, O.P. Dhankar, Ram Bilas Sharma, Kavita Jain, Krishan Lal Panwar, Manish Grover, Karan Dev Kamboj and Krishan Kumar Bedi — all ended up facing humiliating defeat.
Most of them were present at the oath-taking ceremony.
The Congress had criticised Khattar over the delay in inducting ministers, with its national spokesman Randeep Surjewala saying the BJP-JJP “are busy in fighting to secure maximum number of ministerial portfolios”.
No senior leader of the Congress was present at the swearing-in ceremony.
In the 12-member Cabinet, Kamlesh and Gujjar are undergraduates while Dushyant Chautal and Sharma are postgraduates. The remaining are graduates.
Barring former hockey player Sandeep Singh, all the ministers took oath in Hindi.