Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar expanded his cabinet on Tuesday, inducting an MLA each from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its coalition partner Jannayak Janta Party (JJP). In the second expansion carried out in two years, BJP’s Hisar MLA Kamal Gupta and JJP MLA Devender Singh Babli, who represents Tohana in the assembly, were inducted into the Khattar ministry as cabinet ministers.
They were administered oath by Governor Bandaru Dattatreya at a ceremony held at the Haryana Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh. Gupta took oath in Sanskrit while Babli took oath in Hindi. Chief Minister Khattar, Haryana assembly Speaker Gian Chand Gupta, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala and Deputy Speaker Ranbir Gangwa were among those present on the occasion.
With the induction of the two MLAs, the strength of the Haryana council of ministers has gone up to 14, including the chief minister, which is the upper limit. Earlier, 10 MLAs were inducted into the cabinet in November 2019, days after the chief minister and his deputy were sworn in on October 27 in that year.
After Tuesday’s cabinet expansion, the BJP has 10 ministers, including the chief minister, and the JJP has three ministers, including the deputy chief minister, while Ranjit Singh Chautala is the lone Independent MLA inducted as a minister.
The BJP fell short of a simple majority in the October 2019 Haryana assembly polls, winning 40 of the 90 seats, and subsequently, it forged an alliance with the JJP, which has 10 MLAs. The BJP formed the government in the state with the support of JJP lawmakers and Independent MLAs.
Talking to reporters, Haryana BJP chief OP Dhankar, while commenting on the induction of the two leaders, said Kamal Gupta works dedicatedly on any task he takes up, while Babli is energetic and works with passion and dedication on the task assigned to him.
When asked that Haryana Home and Health Minister Anil Vij was conspicuous by his absence at the oath-taking ceremony, Dhankar said, “He is our senior leader and we take decisions after consulting him”. When specifically asked if Vij was unhappy over any issue, Dhankar said, “He is our senior leader and best performer”.
Interacting with reporters after the swearing-in ceremony, Dr Kamal Gupta, a two-time MLA, said his priority will be to ensure Hisar and the state’s development. Babli is a first-time MLA from Tohana in Fatehabad, which remained a hotbed of a farmers’ protest against three central farm laws earlier this year.
The JJP legislator also had faced a strong protest by farmers in his constituency in June during which his SUV’s windscreen was damaged and his personal assistant injured.
Babli had in the 2019 assembly polls defeated BJP’s the then state unit chief Subhash Barala by a heavy margin of votes.
Spelling out his priority after taking oath, Babli said, “I will serve people of my state with full honesty. Whatever responsibility is entrusted to me, I will try to deliver my best and live up to the expectations of the people”. The newly inducted ministers said allocation of portfolios is the prerogative of the chief minister and whatever department they get they will try to give their best.
(With PTI inputs)