The first BJP Cabinet in Haryana led by newly sworn-in Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has given the lion’s share of membership to the Ahirwal region and Karnal district while the number of ministers from the Jat community, which has dominated the politics of the state, stands at 2.
The Ahirwal region and Karnal district have generally been ignored in the political history of the state but Khattar, Punjabi by origin and with an RSS background, has made sure that, himself included, there are five members from these areas in the new, 10-member ministry.
Khattar, who won the Assembly polls from Karnal, has given a ministerial berth to Karandev Singh Kamboj, a Backward Class leader and a first-time MLA from the Indri seat in Karnal district.
As for Ahirwal in southern Haryana, there are three leaders from the region in the Khattar ministry — Ram Bilas Sharma (Mahendargarh), Narbir Singh (Badshahpur) and Vikram Thekedar (Kosli).
The Jat leaders in the ministry are Capt. Abhimanyu and Om Prakash Dhankar, while representing the SC category is Krishan Kumar Bedi, a first-time MLA from Shahabad.
The ministry which was sworn in today gives representation to nine of the 21 districts of Haryana — Karnal, Hissar, Jhajjar, Ambala, Gurgaon, Sonipat, Rewari, Mahendargarh and Kurukshetra.
Khattar is expected to expand his ministry soon as he can have a maximum of 14 ministers – 15 per cent of the 90 member state assembly.
Khattar is also a first-time MLA, as are Capt. Abhimanyu, Om Parkash Dhankar, Vikram Thekedar, Krishan Kumar Bedi and Karan Dev Kamboj.
Of the 10, Dhankar had lost the recent Lok Sabha elections from Rohtak to Congress’s Deepender Hooda, the son of former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
The 60-year-old chief minister has included a number of young faces in his Cabinet, youngest of whom is Kavita Jain — the only woman MLA to take oath today and the youngest minister at 37 years.
Thekedar (44), Abhimanyu (46) and Krishan Kumar Bedi (47) are the other leaders of below 50 years of age in the ministry. Dhankar is 53 and so is Karan Dev. Rao Narbir is 55, Anil Vij, 61. Ram Bilas Sharma is 60.
All the 10 ministers are well-qualified, being at least a graduate or holding professional degrees, including in law and education.
Sharma, currently the state BJP chief under whom the party won seven of the eight seats it contested in the recent Lok Sabha polls, is also a former RSS pracharak. His association with BJP goes back four decades.
One of tallest leaders of the BJP in the state, Sharma was born in Rathiwas village near Mahendragarh in 1949.
Another leader from Ahirwal region, Thekedar, is a first- time MLA from Kosli in Rewari district. Also from southern Haryana is new minister Rao Narbir Singh, the MLA from Badhshahpur.
Rao Narbir had successfully fought Assembly elections from Jatusana in 1987 and Sohna in 1996. He has previously held the portfolios of state Home Minister in 1987 and Transport, Food and Supply and Cooperation Minister in 1996.
He became the youngest legislator in the country to occupy the office of state home minister at the age of 26 years. He also had additional charge of Sports and Printing and Stationery ministry in 1996. He had unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections from Gurgaon in 2009.
The only woman in the Khattar ministry, Kavita Jain, was elected in 2009 and 2014 from the Sonepat seat. It was a chance entry for her into the state Assembly as she was forced to contest the 2009 Assembly elections after her husband, Rajiv Jain, a former Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the Bansi Lal regime, could not do so due to a civil case.
Dhankar, one of the two Jat leaders in the ministry, has been the president of the BJP Kisan Morcha since 2011. He, too, is a former RSS worker.
Dhankar is the national coordinator for the Narendra Modi’s dream project — ‘Statue of Unity’.
Anil Vij, a five-time MLA from the Ambala Cantonment seat, has been the party’ sole face in the state Assembly in the past decade while the saffron outfit was passing through a rough phase in Haryana.
A Jat leader, Capt. Abhimanyu is BJP’s national secretary and national spokesman. He had contested unsuccessfully in the 2005 and 2009 Assembly polls besides in the Lok Sabha elections.