Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda formed his Cabinet on Saturday by inducting six full-fledged Ministers and three Ministers of State. Four slots have been kept vacant. As per law, the strength of the Ministry cannot exceed 14, including the Chief Minister.
Governor Jagannath Pahadia administered the oath of office and secrecy to the Ministers at the Haryana Raj Bhavan here.
While Ajay Singh Yadav, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Mahender Pratap Singh, Paramvir Singh and Geeta Bhukkal (all Congress) and Independent Om Prakash Jain were sworn in as Cabinet Ministers, Shiv Charan Sharma, Gopal Kanda and Sukhbir Kataria (all Independents) were sworn in as Ministers of State.
Mr. Ajay Singh Yadav and Mr. Surjewala were Cabinet Ministers in the Hooda regime during its last tenure while Mr. Paramvir Singh was a Parliamentary Secretary. Mr. Jain and Mr. Mahender Pratap Singh are former Ministers.
Later at a function at the Haryana Niwas, Mr. Hooda inducted nine MLAs, including six of the Congress and three Independents, as Chief Parliamentary Secretaries. Interestingly, during Mr. Hooda’s earlier tenure, there were only two Chief Parliamentary Secretaries and eight Parliamentary Secretaries.
The six Congress MLAs inducted as Chief Parliamentary Secretaries (CPS) include former Chief Parliamentary Secretaries Dharambir Singh, Anita Yadav, and Sharda Rathore; former Parliamentary Secretary Dan Singh; Jaiveer Balmiki and Ram Kishan Fauji. The three Independents are Jaleb Khan, Prahlad Singh Gillakhera and Sultan Singh.
In a brief interaction with the media, Mr. Hooda said his regime would speedily complete all ongoing projects, build infrastructure, create more employment opportunities and improve the quality of life of the people.
Mr. Hooda was sworn in as the Chief Minister for the second successive term on October 25. According to political observers, Mr. Hooda, who faced a difficult task in Cabinet formation given the fact that the Congress regime was dependent on the support of seven Independents and one BSP MLA, had done a deft balancing act accommodating all the seven Independents either in the Cabinet or as Chief Parliamentary Secretaries. At the same time, he gave due representation to the legislators of the ruling party.
Observers say that given the fractured verdict in the recent Assembly polls, where the Congress managed to win only 40 of 90 seats (six short of a simple majority), it had to rely on the support of the Independents to win the vote of confidence on October 28.
Thus, it could not accommodate in the Ministry all its MLAs, including former Ministers like Kiran Choudhary, Savitri Jindal, Venod Sharma or even former Speaker Raghubir Singh Kadian as the focus was on retaining the Independents at any cost.
Interestingly, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which managed to win 31 seats, has been wooing the Independents, the six-member Haryana Janhit Congress of the Bhajan Lal clan and four BJP MLAs in a bid to wrest power from the Congress. The day was full of unconfirmed speculation that some Independents who were appointed CPS were “unhappy” at not getting Cabinet berth.
Given the “uncertainty” regarding the support extended by the Independents, the Congress leadership has been holding parleys with Haryana Janhit Congress chief Kuldeep Bishnoi to merge with the parent party. He does not want to merge with the Congress but extend support to the Hooda government in a power-sharing formula akin to the one in Maharashtra between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
However, according to party insiders, the Congress has not given up hope yet. It is also being said in political circles that legislators of the Haryana Janhit Congress could be accommodated in a few of the remaining four Ministerial slots later on.
In a significant development, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has constituted a Coordination Committee for Haryana under the chairmanship of AICC general secretary Prithviraj Chauhan. Interestingly, the strong Chief Ministerial contender and former Finance Minister, Birender Singh, who lost to Om Prakash Chautala in the Uchana Kalan constituency, is the co-Chairman of the Committee.
Besides Mr. Hooda, the other members of the Committee are Union Minister Selja, Haryana Congress unit chief Phool Chand Mullana, Rajya Sabha MP Ram Prakash and Mr. Ajay Singh Yadav.