NEW DELHI: BJP is set to return to office in Haryana withManohar Lal Khattaras chief minister after sealing a power-sharing deal with the 10 – member Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) headed byDushyant Chautala, the new Jat star who will join the government as deputy CM.
The two parties will stake claim to form the government on Saturday after Khattar’s election as leader of the BJP legislature party in Chandigarh. Their deal was concluded after Chautala was “authorized” by his party to negotiate its participation in the government on the basis of a program that includes job quotas for locals and a hike in the pension scheme for the elderly.
“Accepting the mandate, BJP and JJP have decided to form a coalition government in Haryana, in which the chief minister will be from BJP and the JJP leader will be the deputy CM, “BJP presidentAmit Shahsaid at his residence soon after a meeting with Chautala.
Khattar, BJP working president JP Nadda, MoS financeAnurag Thakurand party vice-president Anil Jain stood alongside Shah.
The development ends the uncertainty in Haryana after BJP finished six short of a majority in a tightly-contested election. Earlier in the day, several Independent MLAs had met Nadda to offer support. Controversial MLA and former minister Gopal Kanda also separately offered to back BJP.
The independents included Nayan Pal Rawat (Prithla), Randhir Singh Gollen (Pundri), Sombir Sangwan (Dadri), Balraj Kundu (Meham), Congress rebel Ranjit Singh (Rania), Dharam Pal Gonder (Nilokheri) and Rakesh Daulatabad (Badshahpur). Kundu, Rawat, Gollen, Sangwan and Gonder are BJP rebels. Khattar told reporters that the independents would support the soon-to-be-formed coalition.
A coalition with JJP will spare BJP the hassle of striking individual deals with independents who might seek to drive hard bargains. More importantly, it will lead to a social reconciliation between the myriad non-Jat castes who form the mainstay of BJP’s support and the dominant caste that turned against BJP with a vengeance in this election, just after having backedNarendra Modifor a second innings as PM. To that extent, the move for a coalition marks an acknowledgement of the restiveness among Jats and appears to be a step towards accommodating their concerns.
Shah said the decision to give the deputy CM’s post to Chautala was taken by respecting the spirit of the mandate. Both parties will work in cohesion to give a stable government over the next five years, he added.
Khattar and Chautala told the media that the alliance was needed for a stable government, with the former acknowledging that BJP had fallen short of a majority.
Though Chautala had earlier said that JJP discussed all options before aligning with BJP, there was no serious discussion with Congress. The JJP leader’s comment that “there are no untouchables for us” came, sources said, when talks between the two sides were already underway and a power-sharing pact with BJP was very much within the realm of possibility. Given that Congress is led by senior Jat leader Bhupinder Hooda, JJP might not have found it useful to support or be part of such a dispensation. It would have been equally difficult for Hooda to prop up JJP.
JJP is an offshoot of the Lok Dal, which was defined by its staunch opposition to Congress during the latter’s ascendancy. The Chautalas and the Hoodas also have a history of rivalry going back several decades.
Chautala recalled his association with the saffron party, going back to family patriarch Devi Lal, who had worked with Jan Sangh leaders.
The BJP leadership has taken note of the Jat backlash in the elections and is aware that the community is a factor in Delhi, too, where elections are due early next year. Accommodating Chautala could be useful beyond getting a solid bloc of MLAs rather than depending solely on a set of independents.
With JJP’s support, the alliance strength will be 57 in the 90 – member assembly. BJP won 40 seats and seven independents have pledged their support.