New Delhi: Manohar Lal Khattar, a 60-year-old RSS man and first-time legislator, will be Haryana's new chief minister. He was elected at a meeting of the BJP's new MLAs on Tuesday, edging out other contenders like Captain Abhimanyu, a Jat leader.
ML Khattar will be Haryana's first non-Jat chief minister in 18 years; Jats have for long dominated politics in the state as the single biggest chunk of voters. In the days ahead, the party, which has won a majority on its own for the first time in Haryana, will have to do a balancing act.
ML Khattar is an unmarried former RSS pracharak or functionary, who was deputed to the BJP 20 years ago. He has worked closely with Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the latter had charge of the state in the 90s. The PM began his Haryana campaign from Karnal, ML Khattar's constituency.
He has reportedly been favoured by the leadership for his clean image. Soon after being elected to lead the new BJP legislators, ML Khattar said, "With the support of everyone, we will give Haryana a good, corruption free government." The BJP had accused the Congress government of Bhupinder Singh Hooda, which ruled Haryana for the last 10 years, of massive corruption.
Earlier this year, ML Khattar was the chairman of the party's campaign committee for Haryana in the national elections. The party won seven of the state's 10 seats. On Sunday, it extended that dominance to the assembly elections, winning 47 of Haryana's 90 seats, a clear mandate to form government.
The BJP did not project a candidate for chief minister, building its campaign around the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The party credits the PM for its best performance in Haryana ever.
Choosing a non-Jat CM for Haryana was a tricky decision. The BJP seems to have based it on the fact that it did not do well in Jat-dominated areas like Sirsa, Hisar, Bhiwandi and Jinda in south Haryana and performed very well elsewhere in the state in assembly elections held last week.
Only six of the 25 Jat candidates it fielded won, setting up a clamour from north Haryana that it must be rewarded for backing the BJP with a non-Jat chief minister.