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Will BJP gamble to have Saini as CM face in Haryana pay off? Party banks on OBCs to retain power

On 29 June, Amit Shah declared that BJP would contest under leadership of CM Saini. A section in BJP fears that this move may 'alienate' other communities.

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Gurugram: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to contest the Haryana polls under Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini’s “leadership” has created unease in the ruling party as a section of leaders say that it might “alienate” other communities.

At the BJP state executive meeting on 29 June, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had declared that the party would contest alone and under the leadership of Saini.

“When we contest the election under Modi’s name, all communities vote for us hoping their representative will become the CM. Now that Shah has declared Saini would remain the CM if the party wins, it might alienate other communities and their leaders,” a former BJP minister told INDIANEXPOSE.

Coming under the OBC category, Sainis are estimated to constitute just about 1 percent of the state’s population. But, various estimates put the OBC or backward class population at 30 percent in Haryana.

Sunil Musepur, a supporter of Union minister Rao Inderjit Singh who contested in 2019 from Rewari and narrowly lost to the Congress candidate, told INDIANEXPOSE that the Ahir leader “deserved” the CM’s post.

“Rao commands influence in 9 assembly seats coming under his Gurgaon parliamentary constituency as well as 4 segments of Bhiwani-Mahendragarh, and a few assembly seats in Rohtak and Faridabad Lok Sabha seats. The BJP has been winning there since 2014 because of him. He was the most deserving CM claimant. However, the party’s decision is supreme and Rao Sahib has always respected it,” he told INDIANEXPOSE.

He said that naming the CM after the elections would have been a better decision.

Musepur also expressed concern that Rao’s workers were demoralised, especially after he was made a minister of state (MoS) instead of being elevated to a Cabinet rank.

Rao, however, sought to quell speculation about his chief ministerial ambitions

“Decisions like this are taken at the party level. When Amit Shah visited Panchkula last month, he announced the BJP’s decision to contest the polls under the leadership of Nayab Singh Saini and he will be the CM’s face. The issue is settled now,” he told reporters in Hisar last Saturday.

Rao added that his supporters do have resentment that the tag of MoS is still attached to him. “I have been MoS for 20 years now. I must be an MoS with the longest stint at that level in the country.”

Rao, whose father Rao Birender Singh was Haryana’s second CM from 24 March 1967 to 20 November 1967, has always been projected as the CM face by his supporters even when he was in the Congress or after he joined the BJP in 2013.

Also Read: Anti-incumbency, Rahul’s caste census call, OBC maths — why BJP replaced Khattar with Saini in Haryana

‘Pleasing personality’

When the BJP went with Manohar Lal Khattar in 2014, it was said to be an attempt to mobilise all non-Jat communities. Khattar is a Khatri, who along with the Aroras, constitute around 9 percent of the population.

Although the BJP failed to get a majority in 2019, it decided to give another term to Khattar, an old friend of Modi. When the party dropped Khattar in March, his loyalist Saini was made the chief minister.

A former state BJP president told INDIANEXPOSE that the party would benefit from Shah’s announcement as Saini has “a pleasing personality”. “He meets everyone with a smile and he has opened the gates of the CM residence to everyone which was not the case in the past.”

But, Satish Tyagi, a political analyst, said that naming Saini as the CM face would do more damage to the BJP than good in an election year..

“The BJP started in non-Jat politics in Haryana since 2019. But there are many other non-Jat castes like Brahmins, Thakurs, Punjabis, and Agarwals who have political aspirations. Now, these communities have lost hope that anyone of their own will reach the top post. Even among OBCs, there are Yadavs and Gujjars (with such aspirations),” Tyagi said.

“In fact, Yadavs give the BJP 10-plus seats, Gujjars 4-5, while Sainis normally give just 1. In such a scenario, even if the BJP wanted to name Saini as its CM, it would have been better to wait till the poll results.”

Even the Congress never announces its candidate in advance so that all prominent leaders can win in their areas, he says.

Another political analyst Mahabir Jaglan was of the opinion that the BJP didn’t have any other alternatives.

“The BJP elevated Saini as the CM on on 12 March, just ahead of the announcement of the general elections. He didn’t have enough time to prove himself. Now, the Haryana polls are too close to the Lok Sabha polls. In such a situation, had the BJP not named him, it would have sent across a wrong message, particularly the OBCs — the biggest vote bank of the party,” Jaglan explained.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

Also Read: Abhay Chautala meets with Mayawati, says INLD-BSP alliance finalised for Haryana polls

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