A key department of urban local bodies held by Haryana’s senior minister Anil Vij was allotted to newly inducted minister Kamal Gupta on Wednesday, while Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also left a portfolio. Khattar has left a department under him called Housing for All, which has been allotted along with the ULB to Gupta, a two-time BJP MLA from Hisar.
Haryana Governor Bandaru Dattatreya has, on the advice of the Chief Minister, made allocation/re-allocation of portfolios among the members of the Council of Ministers, an official statement said. The Development and Panchayats Department, which was one of several portfolios held by Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, has been allotted to another newly inducted minister Devendra Singh Babli, a Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) leader.
In addition, Babli will also hold the charge of the Department of Archeology and Museums, which was held by Anoop Dhanak, another JJP leader and minister. Dhanak will now also handle the Labor and Employment portfolio, which was earlier held by Dushyant Chautala, while the former has also been allotted Revenue and Disaster Management, Industries and Commerce, Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs portfolios, but will be attached to the Deputy CM.
Vij will continue to hold the portfolios of Home, Health, Technical Education, Science and Technology. Vij, in particular, was conspicuous by his absence at the swearing-in ceremony of the newly inducted ministers.
When asked about Vij’s absence, Haryana BJP chief OP Dhankhar had on Tuesday said, “He is our senior leader and we take a decision after consulting him. Specifically when asked if Vij is on any issue.” But unhappy, Dhankhar had said, “He is our senior leader and best actor”. Early last year, after several days of tussle with Khattar over the control of the CID in Haryana, Vij shifted the charge of the department. was removed, which was later allotted to the Chief Minister.
Vij had then expressed displeasure over the CID not providing information or feedback on various issues. However, after being removed from the charge of the CID department, Vij had said that he has always maintained that the Chief Minister is supreme and can remove or bifurcate any department.
Earlier on Tuesday, Gupta and Babli took oath as ministers in Haryana after Chief Minister Khattar expanded his cabinet in the second reshuffle after a gap of two years. With his joining, the strength of the Haryana Council of Ministers has gone up to 14 including the Chief Minister, which is the upper limit.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fell short of a simple majority in the October 2019 Haryana Assembly elections, winning 40 out of 90 seats, and later, it forged an alliance with the JJP, which has 10 MLAs. The BJP formed the government in the state with the support of JJP MPs and independent MLAs.