Defectors, independents, dissidents - all part of Hooda government

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS
Saturday, February 12, 2011

CHANDIGARH - Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda does not only head a coalition government in the state, but one full of independents, defectors and not-so-friendly Congress leaders.

Two legislators who had defected from the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) were inducted as cabinet ministers Jan 28, making it apparent that Hooda is under political pressure during his second term as chief minister.

In the 14-member Haryana council of ministers, including Chief Minister Hooda, there are four ministers who got elected as independent legislators in the Oct 2009 assembly elections, two are defectors from the HJC and two from the anti-Hooda camp in the Congress.

Thus, half the council headed by Hooda is not that of his loyalists.

One of them, O.P. Jain, is a cabinet minister with the important portfolios of transport, tourism, civil aviation and hospitality while three others, Gopal Kanda, Shiv Charan Sharma and Sukhbir Kataria are ministers of state (MOS) with independent charge of various portfolios.

While Kanda holds the charge of home, industries and urban local bodies, Shiv Charan Sharma is labour minister and Kataria is minister for sports, agriculture and cooperation.

Hooda, who remained chief minister in the earlier tenure from March 2005 till October 2009, has been forced to accommodate independent legislators and HJC defectors to stay in power even though the government he heads is not a coalition one.

The Congress, which went in for assembly polls six months ahead of the term, returned with only 40 seats in the 90-member house in the October 2009 assembly polls. It had to rely initially on the support of seven independent legislators to come back to power.

Four of them were made ministers while the remaining three — Jaleb Khan, Parhlad Singh and Sultan Singh — were made chief parliamentary secretaries in the Hooda government.

“The chief minister had to accommodate some independent and HJC legislators. But he was able to form a government for a consecutive term,” a senior Hooda government minister told IANS requesting anonymity.

The lone Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislator, Akram Khan, who had also extended support to the Hooda government at that time, was later made deputy speaker of the state assembly.

Out of the five HJC legislators who defected from their party and claimed that they had “merged” their group into the ruling Congress, four have been suitably rehabilitated by Hooda.

Two of them — Sat Pal Sangwan and Rao Narender Singh — have become cabinet ministers recently. They hold important portfolios like health and revenue respectively.

Two other ex-HJC legislators, Vinod Bhayana and Zile Ram Sharma, too have been accommodated by Hooda as chief parliamentary secretaries. One more HJC defector, Dharam Singh, has not yet been adjusted.

Harmohinder Singh Chatha, a Congress legislator who was till recently speaker of the assembly and was hearing the disqualification petition against the HJC defectors, quit his post and was inducted as a cabinet minister recently.

HJC president Kuldip Bishnoi, who has sought the disqualification of the HJC defectors under the Anti-Defection Act, has alleged that Chatha has been accommodated in the Hooda ministry for allowing the defections by the HJC leaders.

Chatha had allowed the “merger” of the HJC defectors within a day in Nov 2009.

Former MP Satya Pal Jain said: “The order passed by the Speaker was illegal, unconstitutional and against the provision of the 10th schedule of the Constitution of India.”

After Chatha, as speaker, continued to delay the decision on the disqualification petition against the defector HJC legislators, Bishnoi approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court which last month directed the speaker to decide these matters within four months. That period will expire April 20 this year.

Hooda, who dropped high-profile Kiran Chaudhary from his ministry in the second term, has now been forced to take her on board. She too has been elevated as a cabinet minister with important portfolios of excise and taxation and public health.

Hooda and Chaudhary have not been on the best of terms within the ruling Congress even though she remained a minister under him in the previous government also.

Hooda has in recent weeks been forced to contend with the public utterances of senior minister Ajay Singh Yadav on issues concerning land acquisition policy and other decisions of the Hooda government.

Yadav even indicated his support for governance by the Gujarat government headed by BJP leader Narendra Modi. As a fallout, in the recent reshuffle on ministers, Yadav was demoted from the No.2 slot to No.3 in the list of ministers.

Senior Congress leaders, union minister Selja and Rajya Sabha MP Birender Singh, too leave no opportunity to take pot-shots at Hooda.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])

Filed under: Politics

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