Ministers without portfolios, CM without aides
It must have been a rare occasion when the Haryana Council of Ministers held a meeting even before the portfolios of the ministers and the chief minister could be decided and allocated.
A far more striking feature of the BJP government’s first cabinet meeting on Monday was the presence of two top aides of the former CM (SS Dhillon and KK Khandelwal), whom the new incumbent picked to fill temporarily the void created by the delay in appointing officers in the chief minister’s office (CMO).
The duo seemed at complete ease with their new boss.
Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar looked relaxed at the post-cabinet-meeting press conference, as he listed out effortlessly the decisions that had been taken. Facing a barrage of questions about the contentious DLF-Vadra land deal and whether enhanced old-age pension would be dispensed from November 1, Khattar replied in an unruffled manner. Quick to sense the escalating intensity of questions, the new CM wrapped up the briefing abruptly with a namasksar.
But the two central questions dominating the conversation in the government corridors for the past 24 hours —the allocation of portfolios and the appointment of chief minister’s aides — remained unanswered.
BJP’s first Haryana chief minister, Khattar, and his cabinet colleagues who were sworn in on Sunday took part in the first meeting of the cabinet eagerly but they also were at loss to explain as to what was delaying the allocation of portfolios. Asked, the CM said they would decide soon.
The BJP sources said the decision would be taken after the CM had consulted the party’s central leadership in Delhi. “Certain key appointments in the bureaucracy, including that of principal secretary to the chief minister (PSCM), also may be finalised on the high-command advice,” said the source.
Delaying the bureaucratic and police reshuffle is likely to bring the state government to a virtual standstill. “Knowing well that the new regime will relocate them, top officials in the districts, in the police particularly, are worried only about their postings. The system seems to have become inoperative.
The new government should decide quickly to end this ambiguity,” said an official posted in a district.