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HomePoliticsCaste arithmetic, ‘placating’ Dushyant Chautala: Factors driving Haryana cabinet expansion today

Caste arithmetic, ‘placating’ Dushyant Chautala: Factors driving Haryana cabinet expansion today

This is Haryana govt's first cabinet expansion since it was sworn in two years ago. BJP says it was 'long overdue' but could not take place earlier due to the farmers’ protests.

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New Delhi: With the dust from the farmers’ protest settling, the Haryana government is finally gearing up for a Cabinet expansion — its first in just over two years. The Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) announced Monday that the oath-taking will take place Tuesday afternoon at the Haryana Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh.

According to BJP sources, the cabinet expansion will be conducted keeping in mind two main considerations: placating the BJP’s alliance partner — the Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) — and addressing caste arithmetic before the 2024 assembly elections in the state.

Ramesh Chander Kaushik, BJP MP from Sonepat, told ThePrint that the cabinet expansion was “long overdue” but could not take place earlier due to the farmers’ protests.

“The state government now has the opportunity to expand the cabinet and induct a few ministers. But, it will be a short reshuffle… the party also has to see to the preparations for the 2024 assembly elections in Haryana,” Kaushik said.

Also Read: Repeal of farm laws reprieve for Khattar govt but farmers still unhappy with BJP-JJP

‘Space for two additional ministers, but more changes likely’

The state currently has 12 ministers, including Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and deputy CM Dushyant Chautala, but the Haryana cabinet can accommodate two more members, since the upper limit is 14.

At present, the CM and eight ministers are from the BJP, two from the JJP, and one is Independent. It is expected that one minister each will be added from the BJP and the JJP, but a senior BJP leader from Haryana said there might be more changes.

“There has been a performance appraisal… a few present ministers can also be changed,” the leader said, speculating that the party might make some decisions based on regional representation and caste.

“There is currently no minister from the Sonepat and Rohtak regions. There is also no minister from the Bania community. The inductions might address these factors,” the BJP leader told ThePrint.

‘JJP pressure’  

The JJP, which has 10 MLAs in the assembly, shares an uneasy equation with its alliance partner, the BJP, especially in the wake of the farmers’ protests.

In January this year, much before the farm laws were withdrawn, six of the JJP’s MLAs went as far as to give a “virtual ultimatum” to the BJP and JJP leadership in Haryana about advocating the farmers’ cause to the central government.

Although Chautala managed to keep his flock together, there was deep resentment in the JJP about the Haryana government’s lack of alignment with the farmers.

According to a JJP leader, there is also resentment among JJP MLAs about Dushyant “enjoying power” while leaving them out in the cold. “After the repeal of the farm laws, there is an urgent need to address the resentments within the JJP,” the source said.

Several names are currently in circulation, either for induction or for a possible ousting from the cabinet. Sources in the JJP told ThePrint that names in the running for a cabinet berth include Shahbad MLA Ram Karan and Tohana MLA Devender Singh Babli.

A prominent Jat leader, Babli defeated former BJP state president Subhash Barala in 2019. A JJP source told ThePrint that Chautala is adamant about inducting Babli in order to appease the Jat community, which is believed to have turned against the JJP during the farm protests.

Babli was in the news for going against the party line ahead of the Haryana trust vote in March. Back then, he had said the party should withdraw support from the BJP because it had lost “moral ground” by not supporting farmers.

However, a few months later, in June, Babli’s convoy was allegedly “attacked” by protesting farmers. He later apologised for his reaction to the incident and said as a farmer himself he supported the farmer community.

Eye on 2024

According to sources in the Haryana BJP, some ministers may be shown out of the cabinet since their “performance was not up to the mark”.

There is also speculation in Haryana political circles that the BJP is likely to induct a Bania leader to the cabinet, with an eye on the 2024 assembly polls. The names doing the rounds are Gian Chand Gupta, who is currently speaker of the state assembly, Hisar MLA Kamal Gupta, and Palwal MLA Deepak Singla, a BJP source told ThePrint.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Also Read: ‘Naam ka CM hai, kaam to ko ni kare’: Why there’s rising resentment against Khattar in Haryana



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