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BJP’s big move in Haryana: Manohar Lal Khattar quits, OBC leader Nayab Saini sworn in as chief minister

CHANDIGARH: The BJP on Tuesday replaced Manohar Lal Khattar with OBC leader Nayab Singh Saini as Haryana’s chief minister in a swift switch in the state, just weeks ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

Saini, who is the party’s state unit president, was sworn in as chief minister along with five ministers at a Raj Bhawan ceremony hours after the dramatic resignation of Khattar and his cabinet.

The 54-year-old leader, who represents Kurukshetra in the Lok Sabha, is also set to prove his majority in the state legislature.

Saini said the party has 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.

The floor-test suggestion was made amid signs that the BJP-Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) alliance in the state might have ended, though there has been no formal announcement yet.

The five other newly sworn-in ministers are 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 the outgoing Khattar ministry.

Anil Vij, who held the powerful Home portfolio in the previous cabinet and was often at loggerheads with Khattar, did not attend the swearing-in ceremony. He is said to be upset over being “ignored” by the party.

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 Bhawan 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.

Khattar’s second term as chief minister was ending in October, when the next assembly elections are due.

Only on Monday, he shared the dais in Gurugram with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the launch of several road projects.

Modi spoke warmly there about his “old association” with Khattar, recalling that the two had travelled through the state on a motorcycle.

Khattar on Tuesday said the party leadership has told him that he will be given another responsibility.

”Maybe it is about the Lok Sabha polls,” he said amid speculation that he may be fielded as the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Karnal. He also claimed he has come to know that the JJP has decided to contest the coming polls on its own.

The JJP, which had three ministers including deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala in the 14-member Khattar cabinet, held its own meeting Tuesday in Delhi.

Five of the JJP’s MLAs in Haryana are said to have skipped the meeting and four were seen at the swearing-in, triggering speculation over a possible rift in that party.

Meanwhile, events unfolded fast in Chandigarh.

Khattar and the BJP-led council of ministers tendered their resignations to the Governor as a team of the party’s central observers arrived.

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 decision on Haryana, were also in the frame.

Biplab Deb and BJP’s Rajya Sabha member Subhash Barela too attended the MLAs’ meeting.

Saini, considered close to Khattar, was appointed the president of the BJP’s Haryana unit only in October with the party replacing Om Prakash Dhankar. The move then was seen as an attempt to consolidate the BJP hold on the Other Backward Classes community 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 10 seats in the state by large margins.

But the party needed the JJP when it failed to make it to the halfway mark in the assembly elections later.

At present, the BJP has 41 MLAs in the 90-member assembly, and the JJP 10. The ruling combine also enjoyed the support of six of the seven independents.

The main opposition Congress has 30 MLAs and the Indian National Lok Dal and Haryana Lokhit Party one seat each.

In a post on X, Saini thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J P Nadda, Biplab Dev, Khattar and the party MLAs.

Emerging out of the BJP meeting at Haryana Niwas, senior leader Anil Vij, who held the Home portfolio in the previous government, parried questions from reporters on what transpired inside.

”Those who have come from Delhi will tell,” he said.

Earlier in the day, outgoing Education Minister Kanwar Pal had told reporters that Khattar will be sworn in again as the CM. Haryana Lokhit Party MLA Gopal Kanda too made that prediction.

“I think he will remain the CM and he should remain so,” he said.

Source: Press Trust of India

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