CHANDIGARH – Manohar Lal Khattar took oath as the chief minister for the second time on Sunday and Dushyant Chautala was sworn-in as his deputy as the BJP formed the government with the help of the JJP in Haryana.
Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya administered oath to them at a ceremony held at the Raj Bhavan here on Diwali. Other ministers of the Khattar cabinet are expected to be sworn-in after a few days.
Former chief minister and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and BJP working president J P Nadda were present on the occasion.
Dushyant Chautala’s father Ajay Chautala, who stepped out of the Tihar jail in Delhi on a furlough, and mother Naina Chautala, who has been re-elected as an MLA, attended the event.
However, INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala, the estranged uncle of Dushyant Chautala, was not present.
Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore, Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Krishan Pal Gurjar, R L Kataria, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and his Himachal counterpart Jai Ram Thakur were also there at the ceremony.
The Bharatiya Janata Party had on Friday sealed a deal with the Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janta Party to form the government in Haryana after the saffron party fell short of six seats from the majority mark in the assembly election.
In the 90-member assembly, the BJP had won 40, JJP 10, Congress 30, INLD and the Haryana Lokhit Party one each, while seven Independents also won.
Both the 65-year-old Khattar and 31-year-old Dushyant Chautala took oath in Hindi. In their brief media interaction after the oath-taking function, the two leaders said the alliance would provide a stable government.
Dushyant Chautala, great grandson of former deputy prime minister Devi Lal, said the government would work towards the welfare of all sections of the society.
Ajay Chautala said he felt proud that “today, I’m known in the public as Dushyant’s father”.
The former MP said it was hard to believe that Dushyant Chautala had built the party in just 10 months and some of its candidates even made stalwarts bite the dust.
“He (Dushyant) always consults me whenever he has to take any major decision,” said Ajay Chautala, who is lodged in jail along his father and former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala after their conviction in a teachers’ recruitment scam.
Asked about the Congress raising doubts about the prospects of the BJP-led coalition, Ajay Chautala said: “Whatever the Congress says, it’s their wish. Definitely, this alliance will work and it will take forward the development work of Haryana in the next five years.”
In 2014, Khattar became the state’s first Punjabi-speaking chief minister and the first non-Jat leader to occupy the post after 18 years when Prime Minister Narendra Modi handpicked him.
Then aged 26, Dushyant became the youngest MP in 2014 when he was elected from Hisar by defeating Congress veteran Kuldeep Bishnoi.
Parkash Singh Badal also underlined that the BJP-JJP coalition would provide a stable government in Haryana.
Asked if Dushyant Chautala would carry forward the legacy of Devi Lal, Badal said: “Definitely, he will be able to do so. Chaudhary Devi Lal would have been very happy had he been alive.”
Modi congratulates Khattar, Dushyant
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday congratulated Manohar Lal Khattar and Dushyant Chautala on being sworn in as chief minister and deputy chief minister of Haryana respectively.
“Congratulations to @mlkhattar Ji and @Dchautala on taking oath as CM and Deputy CM of Haryana. Best wishes to them as they work to fulfil the aspirations of the people of Haryana,” Modi tweeted.
BJP falling short of majority puts Khattar’s leadership under test
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi handpicked Manohar Lal Khattar as Haryana’s chief minister in 2014, the decision took many by surprise.
He did not come from the dominant Jat community, spoke Punjabi and had no administrative experience. But even as a first-time MLA, he was asked to head the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government ever in the state.
“There were people who used to say I am new and lack experience. Some even branded me an ‘anadi’ (novice). But now the very same people say I am not an ‘anadi’ but a ‘khiladi’ (player) of politics,” Khattar, 65, had said at several election meetings before the October 21 Assembly polls.
Though the BJP in Haryana benefitted from the party’s continuing dominance at the national level, Thursday’s assembly election results have put Khattar’s leadership under test.
The BJP, which had formed government for the first time on its own in Haryana by winning 47 of the 90 seats, and had set a target to win more than 75 seats this time, could manage only 40, falling short of a simple majority by six.
Notwithstanding the ruling outfit’s claims of providing a clean, transparent, corruption-free government, political observers say what worked to the BJP’s disadvantage was the strategy to consolidate the non-Jat vote in an apparent bid to counter Jat dominance in the state’s politics.
Eight of Khattar’s ministers also lost the polls that included some prominent faces from the Jat community, including Abhimanyu and Om Prakash Dhankar.
Now, with his party taking support of seven Independents and the 10-month old Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), and making its leader Dushyant Chautala his deputy, Khattar faces the challenge of running a coalition government.
The JJP is likely to keep its senior partner on toes, asking it to implement the poll promises the fledgling outfit made to the people before the polls.
Khattar joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) when he was 24 in 1977 and moved to the BJP in 1994.
He first began working with Modi, who himself is an RSS paracharak, in 1996, when the senior leader was in charge of the state for the BJP.
In 2002, Khattar was made the election in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir.
Khattar, a bachelor known for his simple lifestyle, earned himself a reputation as a tough taskmaster while working behind the scenes in key positions in the BJP, and was admired for organisational skills.
He played a key role in many electoral campaigns and was the chairman of the party’s election campaign committee in Haryana in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls
Khattar also headed ‘Antyodaya Yojana’ for the BJP at the national level, which symbolised the the party’s ideology to elevate those in the lowest rung of the society.
However, it was his proximity to Modi that seemed to have catapulted him to the chief minister’s post when he edged out veterans like Ram Bilas Sharma, Anil Vij and O P Dhankar in October 2014.
Destiny clearly had something else in store for the man whose childhood ambition was to become a doctor. Instead, he became the state’s first Punjabi speaking chief minister, and the first non-Jat leader to occupy the post after 18 years.
Khattar, born in Nindana, a village in Haryana’s Rohtak district, hails from a humble agricultural background. His family arrived in Haryana from Pakistan after the Partition.
They settled at Nindana. His father and grandfather took to farming, finally saving enough to start a small shop.
He became the first member of his family to study beyond class 10, when he enrolled himself in Neki Ram Sharma Government College in Rohtak.
He travelled to Delhi to prepare for a medical entrance test, initiating a chain of events that transformed his life.
Despite facing pressure from his family to stick to farming, he took to business and simultaneously graduated from the Delhi University. In 1977, he joined the RSS.
As chief minister, he consolidated his position when the BJP won all the five mayoral seats last year followed by victory in the Jind bypolls this year. What added to his stature later was the party’s clean sweep in the general elections where it won all the 10 seats from the state.
Khattar’s government claims to have brought in transparency in all the spheres, providing a “corruption-free” government, giving jobs on merit, initiating several welfare schemes, upgrading infrastructure and bringing a law on minimum educational qualification criteria to fight the panchayat polls.
His government survived a string of challenges, including violence triggered by action against self-styled godman Rampal in November 2014, Jat quota stir in 2016, and violence after the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in 2017. About 80 lives were lost in these incidents.
In his first term what worked to his and the BJP’s advantage was the absence of a strong opposition in the state. There has been infighting in the state unit of the Congress and a feud in the Chautala clan led to a split in the once-powerful Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
Over decades, Haryana’s politics revolved around three Lals — former chief ministers Devi Lal, Bansi Lal and Bhajan Lal, and sometimes Khattar’s supporters like to call him Haryana’s “fourth Lal”.
Dushyant Chautala: Possible heir to Devi Lal’s legacy
The results of the Haryana Assembly elections possibly settled the debate on the legacy of former deputy prime minister and Jat stalwart Devi Lal in the favour of his great grandson Dushyant Chautala.
His father Ajay Chautala, who walked out of Tihar prison in Delhi for two weeks on a furlough, said he feels proud that “Today, I am known in the public as Dushyant’s father”. A former MP, he said it was hard to believe that in just ten months Dushyant has built the party and some of its candidates made even stalwarts bite the dust.
Dushyant trounced BJP sitting MLA Prem Lata, wife of former Union minister Birender Singh, from Uchana Kalan, while his Jannayak Janata Party’s Ram Kumar Gautam defeated senior minister Abhimanyu from Narnaund constituency.
With ten seats, JJP emerged in the ‘kingmaker’s’ role as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ended up winning only 40 seats in the 90-member assembly. The BJP sought the support of Dushyant’s JJP, and the seven Independents, to enable it to form a stable government.
The 31-year-old US-educated Dushyant, who comes from the Jat community, made some quick moves and ruled out possibility of supporting the Congress, which has 31 members.
A meeting with Union Home Minister and BJP president Amit Shah sealed the deal and the BJP-JJP coalition was formed.
Dushyant, however, will have to do the balancing act between his anti-BJP support base and work with the Khattar-led dispensation for smooth governance.
Then aged 26, Dushyant became the youngest MP in 2014 when he was elected from Hisar, defeating Congress veteran Kuldeep Bishnoi. Five years later, he is leading a party and has been made Chief Minister M L Khattar’s deputy.
In the assembly polls, the parent Indian National Lok Dal, headed by Dushyant’s grandfather Om Prakash Chautala and uncle Abhay Chautala, was trumped by the breakaway JJP. The INLD could manage to win just one seat, slumping to its worst performance.
Dushyant, who stands nearly 6 feet 4 inches tall and many say resembles Devi Lal, has now emerged as a leader of some reckoning in the Jat community, as well among Haryana’s youth.
Last year, the INLD split between Dushyant’s father Ajay Chautala and uncle Abhay Chautala the two sons of Om Prakash Chautala. Ajay Chautala and his father are serving a jail term in connection with a teachers’ recruitment scam during the INLD tenure.
Dushyant is described as a risk-taker by some. He opted to form his own political outfit, rather than get into in a legal battle with his uncle Abhay Chautala over holding the reins of INLD.
Despite attempts made by some ‘khaps’ and even former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, a family friend of the Chautalas, for a reconciliation, Dushyant remained firm.
Just a month after coming into being last December, the JJP faced its first electoral challenge in the Jind bypoll. Its candidate Digvijay Chautala lost to the BJP but managed to push Congress stalwart Randeep Singh Surjewala to the third position.
The JJP then fought on seven seats in the Lok Sabha polls in April-May, leaving three for the Aam Aadmi Party.
The BJP made a clean sweep on all the 10 parliamentary constituencies in the state and Dushyant lost his own Hisar seat.
But the defeat appeared to have not deterred him from going for the bigger goal to build the party and make it a fighting force ahead of assembly polls. This time his party did not enter into any alliance, deciding to contest independently.
He opted for a tough seat himself, fighting from Uchana Kalan against Prem Lata, who had defeated him the last time.
Recalling his journey over the last five years, Dushyant had told PTI, “There has been a lot of change, I had to leave my higher education, get into politics and today I am leading a party. It requires drastic effort and big changes.”
Dushyant went to the prestigious Lawrence School, Sanawar in Himachal Pradesh. He has a masters degree in law and mass communication from Indian universities.
As an MP, Dushyant was active in Parliament. He asked 677 questions on issues including railway and highway projects, crime against women, child labour and drug trafficking. To highlight farmers’ concerns, he drove a tractor to Parliament two years ago.
The tractor featured prominently in this election as well. Along with wife Meghna and MLA-mother Naina Chautala, he rode one on October 21 to cast his vote in Jind.
JJP disrespected people’s mandate, hurt their feelings: Hooda
Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Sunday said the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) has “disrespected” the mandate given by the people of Haryana and “hurt” the public feeling by allying with the BJP and supporting it in government formation.
Taking a jibe at JJP, the former Haryana chief minister said, “People gave votes to someone, but JJP gave its support to other.”
Reacting to the post-poll BJP-JJP alliance, he said, “JJP disrespected the people’s mandate against BJP and hurt the feelings of the public.”
However, he congratulated the new government in Haryana.
“I give my best wishes to the new government. However, I want to see how much coordination takes place between JJP and BJP to run the new government,” Hooda told media on the sidelines of the oath-taking ceremony of Manohar Lal Khattar as CM and Dushyant Chautala of JJP as deputy CM at Raj Bhawan here.
He hoped the new government works for the development of Haryana.