Khattar trying to strike a balance between his own and allies
Two weeks into government formation, the newly-stitched Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) alliance in Haryana which was expected to get going is dragging its feet due to an inordinate delay in plans to induct MLAs in the council of ministers. The hold-up also gives an insight into the compulsions and limitation a coalition government would have.
The delay in induction, officials said, was hampering the day-to-day administration in the state. At the moment, only chief minister can be termed as a functional one-man cabinet since he holds the charge of all portfolios in the absence of any fresh inductions. Deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala remains a minister without a portfolio. With no ministers around, an involuntary centralisation has happened, affecting the efficiency of the administration adversely. “In the present situation, all the issues, howsoever minor, have to be tackled at the level of the chief minister. So this literally means that very little gets through,’’ said an official.
Both chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala were sworn in on October 27, three days after the assembly poll results threw up a hung assembly. The BJP as the single largest party with 40 MLAs entered into a coalition with the JJP to form the government. The BJP also claimed to have the support of seven Independents besides their post-poll ally JJP’s 10 MLAs.
CHALLENGE FOR KHATTAR
While the government formation was a smooth affair, shaping the contours of Council of Ministers seems to be a major challenge for chief minister ML Khattar. Not only does Khattar have to take care of his own party men, he also needs to look after the demands of the ally JJP. While it is certain that the JJP will get only three berths, including Dushyant as deputy CM, in the council of ministers, the allocation of portfolios to Dushyant and his JJP colleagues remains an open-ended matter. From the JJP camp, besides Dushyant, second term MLAs, RK Gautam (Narnaund) and Anoop Dhanak (Uklana) are in contention for induction in the cabinet.
From the BJP camp, Anil Vij, a Punjabi-Khatri from Ambala Cantt in the north and Banwari Lal, a scheduled caste from Bawal in the south, the two BJP ministers who won this time, are sure shots for cabinet berths. Besides this, former IAS officer and two-time MLA Abhe Singh Yadav from Nangal Chaudhary seat, second term MLAs Seema Trikha (Badhkal), Kamal Gupta (Hisar), Kanwar Pal Gujjar (Jagadhri), Mool Chand Sharma (Ballabhgarh) and Bishamber Balmiki are also in the reckoning for a ministerial berth. Here again, the allocation of portfolios, particularly to Vij who is the senior-most minister, will be a real test for the chief minister. There is no clarity about the prospects of independent MLAs lending support to the BJP-JJP coalition. Initially, two Jat independent MLAs Balraj Kundu (Meham) and Ranjit Singh (Rania) were under consideration for cabinet berths. However, the BJP is rethinking its strategy and may put the independents on wait list, party sources said.
Only 13 including CM can be inducted, govts flout cap
There are 11 cabinet berths up for grabs since eight BJP ministers who were seeking a second term were defeated in the polls. While there can be a maximum of 13 ministers, including the chief minister in Haryana Council of Ministers, as per Article 164 (1A) of the Constitution, successive governments have been flouting the constitutional cap by rounding off the 13.5% figure and inducting 14 ministers, including the chief minister. The Constitution says that the total number of ministers including the chief minister in the council of ministers in a state shall not exceed 15% of the total number of MLAs, thus meaning that Haryana cannot have more than 13 ministers including the chief minister.