The nine-month-old BJP government in Haryana will carry out its first cabinet expansion on Thursday morning. The expansion is expected by 11 am. The council of ministers already has 10 ministers, including the chief minister, and can accommodate four more as per the constitutional cap of 15% on the size of the cabinet.
Some MLAs will also be administered oath as chief parliamentary secretaries (CPS) and parliamentary secretaries by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday soon after the ministers are sworn in by the governor.
While no formal announcement regarding the probables was made till Wednesday night, it is likely that MLAs from Scheduled Castes, backward classes, Aggarwal and Sikh communities will get representation in the cabinet and as parliamentary secretaries.
Also, MLAs from Faridabad, Bhiwani, Panipat, Panchkula and Ambala districts could get precedence in both categories. The cabinet expansion would also mean that Khattar and cabinet minister Capt Abhimanyu, who hold the charge of 17 and 13 portfolios, respectively, will offload their burden to some extent.
As per the composition of the present council of ministers, there are two Punjabis (Khattar and Anil Vij), two Jats (Capt Abhimanyu and OP Dhankar), two Ahirs (Rao Narbir Singh and Bikram Singh Yadav), one Brahmin (Ram Bilas Sharma), one Aggarwal (Kavita Jain), one from Scheduled Castes (Krishan Bedi) and one from backward class (Karan Dev Kamboj).
BJP sources stated that while picking an SC MLA for a cabinet berth or minister of state rank, preference would be given to a legislator from the Chamar community (Krishan Lal Panwar, Banwari Lal, Bimla Chaudhary, Balwant Singh). Panwar, they say, stands a better chance, being from Panipat district, though he is not a home-grown leader from the BJP stable, having made the switch from the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) just before the assembly polls.
Among the MLAs from the Aggarwal community, the frontrunner for a berth in the council of ministers is Bhiwani MLA Ghanshyam Saraf. Saraf, being a second-time MLA, stands a better chance of getting a cabinet berth than first-time Faridabad legislator Vipul Goyal. Also, Saraf comes from unrepresented Bhiwani district.
The surprise package in Thursday's expansion could be Naraingarh MLA Nayab Saini, who comes from a backward class. Saini is being considered a frontrunner for a cabinet berth from the Ambala district slot which at present is represented by Ambala Cantonment MLA Anil Vij. Vij's not-so-cordial relations with Khattar and his primarily urban constituency, BJP sources said, necessitates the need to have an alternative power centre in Ambala.
From Faridabad, another unrepresented district, Badhkal MLA Seema Trikha, a Punjabi, could be sworn in as a parliamentary secretary, while the lone Sikh MLA from Assandh, Bakshish Singh Virk, too, is likely to be appointed as a parliamentary secretary.
The BJP leadership and Khattar have a tough task at hand while undertaking the cabinet expansion and appointing parliamentary secretaries. The saffron party, for the first time, got a clear mandate in the state, thanks to an overwhelming response it received in northern and southern Haryana. The party won 32 seats (21 from north and 11 from south) in a tally of 47. Right now, among the 10 members of the cabinet, including the CM, seven come from the north-south belt.