Rajat Sharma


AKB30 BJP brought about a major upset in Haryana on Tuesday. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar was replaced by Nayab Singh Saini, the state party chief, at the party legislators’ meeting. Five ministers, who were in Khattar’s cabinet, were sworn in along with Saini by the Governor. On Wednesday, Saini, the new CM, won the vote of confidence in the assembly by a voice-vote. The change in Haryana leadership was unexpected. Nobody had the remotest hint about it. On Monday, Khattar had appeared with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gurugram for the inauguration of Gurugram-Dwarka expressway. Modi praised Khattar from the dais. Nobody knew that this could be Khattar’s farewell speech. When news came on Tuesday morning that Khattar would resign and a new leader would be elected at the legislative party meeting, there was hectic political activity. Everybody was stunned. Two central party observers reached Chandigarh to attend the legislative party meet. Anil Vij, who was Home Minister in Khattar’s cabinet, was unhappy when Saini was elected leader. He left the meeting in a huff and went to his home in Ambala. Vij did not attend the oath taking ceremony. Three out of 10 MLAs from Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party were present in the oath taking ceremony, raising concerns whether Dushyant’s party could split. Dushyant’s party had walked out of its alliance with BJP. The question is, why Prime Minister Modi replaced Khattar with Saini. The change of leadership in Haryana by the BJP high command is not a first-of-its-kind experiment. Similar changes in leadership were made in the past in Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Tripura and Karnataka. Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat was replaced by Pushkar Singh Dhami, Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani was replaced by Bhupendra Patel, Tripura CM Biplab Deb was replaced by Manik Saha and Karnataka CM B S Yeddyurappa was replaced by Basavaraj Bommai. This experiment proved successful in these states, except Karnataka. The reason for change of leadership in Haryana could be the anti-incumbency factor building up against Manohar Lal Khattar, who has been the CM for more than nine years. But this cannot be the sole reason. Lok Sabha elections will be fought in the name and achievements of Narendra Modi. There are other reasons. Nayab Singh Saini is a fresh face, he is young, he does not carry past baggage, he is an organization man and caste equations are in his favour. Nayab Singh Saini belongs to the backward caste. Backward castes account for nearly 25 per cent votes in Haryana. Brahmin, Punjabi and Bania votes also account for a similar proportion. Jat votes account for nearly 30 per cent. In the last assembly electgions, BJP failed to get Jat community’s support, and BJP’s Jat leaders like Capt Abhimanyu, Om Prakash Dhankhar and Subhash Barala lost the elections. Last week, Birendra Singh’s son Brajendra Singh left the BJP to join Congress. BJP’s strategists are now focusing on non-Jat votes. With Dushyant Chautala’s JJP moving out of its alliance with BJP, there are now four major players in the fray – BJP, Congress, Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal and Dushyant’s JJP. If BJP fails to get Jat votes, it could be divided among three other parties. If BJP manages to mobilize non-Jat votes in its favour, it can achieve its objective of winning all the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana in May. This formula can also work during Haryana assembly elections which will be held in the latter part of the year. It will now depend on BJP high command whether to field Manohar Lal Khattar in the Lok Sabha elections or not.

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