Haryana twist: Nayab Saini replaces Khattar as CM, BJP cuts ties with JJP | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Haryana twist: Nayab Saini replaces Khattar as CM, BJP cuts ties with JJP

By, Chandigarh
Mar 13, 2024 05:06 AM IST

Nayab Singh Saini, loyalist of Manohar Lal Khattar, sworn in as Haryana's new CM after BJP-JJP alliance collapse. BJP confident with 41 MLAs and 6 independents.

Nayab Singh Saini, 54, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Haryana chief and the member of Parliament (MP) from Kurukshetra, and a loyalist of incumbent chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, was sworn in the new chief minister of Haryana on Tuesday evening after the latter’s surprise resignation following the exit of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) from the state’s ruling coalition.

Newly sworn-in Haryana Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini with his cabinet, governor Bandaru Dattatreya and former Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar at the Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh on Tuesday. (ANI)
Newly sworn-in Haryana Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini with his cabinet, governor Bandaru Dattatreya and former Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar at the Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh on Tuesday. (ANI)

Read here: Abhay Chautala's ‘betrayal’ jab at nephew Dushyant as BJP, JJP split in Haryana

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Despite the dramatic developments of the day that began with the collapse of the BJP-JJP alliance, the BJP, with 41 MLAs in the 90-member House and the support of six independents, still appeared to be comfortably placed. Saini said the party had given governor Bandaru Dattatreya a list of 48-members who support the government, and asked him to summon a session of the assembly on Wednesday to prove its majority on the floor of the House.

“Our newly formed cabinet wants to thank former CM Manohar Lal Khattar. He has given Haryana a new direction and has given the best example of good governance. He did development work in the state without any discrimination,” Saini told reporters.

After the entire cabinet resigned along with Khattar, five ministers were sworn in — BJP’s Kanwar Pal (Jagadhari), Mool Chand Sharma (Ballabhgarh), Jai Parkash Dalal (Loharu) and Banwari Lal (Bawal), and Independent MLA Ranjit Singh Chautala (Rania). They were all part of Khattar’s council as well.

The new CM can accommodate at least eight more ministers. In the 90-member House, the JJP has 10 members, the Congress 30, and Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP) and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) one each, and there are seven independents.

The move to part ways is believed to have been triggered by disagreement over seat-sharing for the summer’s Lok Sabha elections; the BJP , which has 10 incumbent MPs in all 10 parliamentary constituencies in the state was unwilling to share Lok Sabha seats with the JJP. The number of seats sought by JJP has not been disclosed by either side, while there has been no discussion on assembly seats yet, people familiar with the matter said.

Khattar, however, said that it was the BJP’s tradition to bring in new leadership. “It happened in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh. In fact, I myself had suggested to the party high command that time has come for a new leadership to take over in Haryana,’’ Khattar said. He was referring to the BJP’s practice of bringing in new leaders to curb anti-incumbency, often ahead of major elections.

Ex-home minister miffedBut the realignment was not without dissent. Controversial state home minister Anil Vij did not attend the swearing-in ceremony amid speculation that he was upset. Vij had also walked out of the legislature party meeting where Saini was “unanimously” named the CM-designate.

Khattar later told reporters that Vij’s name was on the list of new ministers to be sworn in at the Raj Bhavan ceremony, but the MLA decided to skip it. The former CM indicated that both he and Saini will talk to Vij later to persuade him to accept a place in the cabinet.

To be sure, while the break-up may have forced a change in leadership, analysts said the move would help the BJP address the issue of anti-incumbency in the assembly elections due late this year, and also split the Jat vote in the general elections.

The BJP does have a track record of changing chief ministers ahead of elections if it fears anti-incumbency. Khattar has been a two-time chief minister, and the BJP managed to scrape through in the last assembly elections, largely on account of the Congress’ inertia in empowering its tallest leader in the state, former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

Khattar said that he and Saini went a long way back. “When I was sangathan mantri in 1994-95, Nayab Saini used to do typing and computer work in the party office. In 2014, the party gave him a ticket for assembly elections and he became a minister, He later became an MP. He is an affable person with a good temperament,’’ Khattar said.

It is believed that Khattar’s handling of the ongoing farm protests — the Haryana police has sought to prevent the farmers from crossing over from Punjab into the state en route Delhi, and on February 21, a farmer was shot dead — did not go down well with the dominant Jat population in the state. That and the prospect of going into election season with a two-term incumbency against it, may have prompted the BJP to effect the change, analysts said.

High dramaThe day began on a dramatic note. Khattar and the BJP-led council of ministers tendered their resignations to the governor as a team of the party’s central observers arrived in Chandigarh amid swirling rumours of the JJP having withdrawn support. The BJP MLAs then headed to a meeting in Haryana Bhawan where Saini was unanimously elected as leader of the party’s legislative group, party leaders said.

When Saini met the governor to stake claim to form the government, he was accompanied by Union minister Arjun Munda, BJP general secretary Tarun Chugh, Khattar and Biplab Deb, the party’s Haryana in-charge at the Centre.

Khattar was also seen in a photograph presenting a bouquet to Saini. Munda and Chugh, the two central observers sent to Chandigarh to implement the party’s decision, were also present.

Khattar indicated that JJP’s plea for a seat sharing arrangement with the BJP for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections was the trigger for their parting of ways. “The BJP would like to contest all the 10 seats on its own since we won all in 2019,’’ Khattar said.

Read here: Nayab Saini takes oath as Haryana chief minister; 5 ministers also sworn in. Check list

The Congress called the developments scripted. “This is nothing but an attempt to put a lid on the nine years of incompetent governance of Manohar Lal Khattar. A new chief minister and a new label has been put in place in an attempt to hide the anti-people policies of the BJP government. The understanding is that JJP will contest the elections alone and thus help the BJP divide the electorate on caste lines,’’ senior leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

Saini was appointed the president of the BJP’s Haryana unit in October with the party replacing Om Prakash Dhankar. The move then was seen as an attempt to consolidate the BJP hold on OBCs in the Jat-dominated state.

Saini was a minister in the first Khattar cabinet. He was an MLA when he fought the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, in which the BJP won all the seats in the state by large margins.

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