Chandigarh: Two months into his second term as Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar finds himself at odds with state Home Minister Anil Vij over the control of a police wing.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is traditionally overseen by the home ministry, which also controls the police, but Khattar has taken it under his wing.
The home department itself is generally held by the chief minister — as Khattar did in the first term — but it was given to Vij this time over the BJP brass’ alleged displeasure with Khattar’s performance in the first term.
Vij has objected to the CID being disassociated from the police, but the chief minister is convinced that it is his prerogative to have any government department of his choice under him.
Following a war of words between the two over the issue, with Vij insisting the matter be taken to the cabinet for discussion, the chief minister seemed to make it clear Monday that his decision was final.
Unhappy with Khattar
In his second term, Khattar finds himself less powerful than in his first one. Although he has been retained as chief minister, the BJP brass is not happy with his performance from 2014-19, which it sees as the reason the party couldn’t secure an absolute majority in the state last year. The BJP eventually formed the government with the Jannayak Janata Party of Dushyant Chautala.
Several meaty portfolios have been assigned to Chautala, who is also the deputy chief minister. Of whatever remained with the BJP, the most important is home, which controls police, including the intelligence wing, and is responsible for the law and order situation in the state.
But home was given to Vij, a six-term MLA who is senior to Khattar. Known to be intolerant of corruption, Vij, however, has courted more headlines for his loose remarks.
Vij started his stint as home minister with a press conference where he referred to himself as Gabbar, the dacoit from Bollywood classic Sholay, several times.
“Ab Anil Vij aa gaya hai, ab sab theek ho jaega (Now that Anil Vij is here, everything will be fine,” he said.
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The CID row
Khattar and Vij have shared an uneasy relationship since the BJP’s previous term in office.
The row over the CID allegedly started with an intelligence report prepared ahead of the 2019 assembly polls that predicted a bleak outlook for the BJP.
The report, state government insiders said, clearly stated that the BJP will not have a cakewalk in the assembly elections. Last month, sources said, Vij tried to access the report.
“Vij wanted to access the intelligence report,” said a police officer, and it is suspected that he may have wanted to show it to the BJP high command.
Vij, however, was refused access to the report, sources close to both Vij and Khattar said. Miffed, Vij immediately created a three-member committee to review the working of the CID wing of the home department.
Before the committee could start work, the chief minister moved in and took the CID under him. This meant that the the entire intelligence wing of police, which handles intelligence as well as surveillance, was now directly under the chief minister and not the home minister.
When the list of portfolios on the Haryana Vidhan Sabha website was updated to show CID under Khattar last week, Vij told journalists in Chandigarh that the chief minister should have secured the state cabinet’s nod before taking it over.
Speaking to the media in Panchkula last week, the chief minister, however, made it clear that he was not the first or the last chief minister to have separated the CID from the home department for oversight.
On Monday, he seemed to have finalised his decision. The portfolio section of the Vidhan Sabha website, under updation for three days after the row blew up last week, was finally accessible Monday and showed CID under the chief minister.
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The fight between the two will never end. In fact, this unholy alliance will not last for too long. JJP will realize very soon.
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