The BJP Sunday appointed senior Haryana leader and former minister Om Prakash Dhankar as the new state president of the party. In Dhankar, the BJP has continued with a Jat face, the most dominant caste in the state. He replaces Subhash Barala, also a Jat, who has already completed his term of three years.
According to the appointment letter issued by BJP national general secretary Arun Singh, the party national president, JP Nadda has appointed Dhankar, 58, as party’s Haryana unit chief with immediate effect.
Both Dhankar and Barala had lost the last year’s Assembly elections. At the time of going to polls, Dhankar was a Cabinet minister in the BJP government headed by Manohar Lal Khattar.
It was expected that the BJP would appoint a new president soon after the Assembly election results, but the process remained in abeyance for close to eight months even as over a half a dozen aspirants threw their hat in the ring. By continuing with a Jat face, the BJP has sought to balance the caste equations in the state, where politics revolves around Jats and non-Jats.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is from Punjabi community.
Dhankar is known for his “harmonious” equations with Khattar apart from his closeness to Nadda. “Dhankar ji has taken over as new state unit chief. He is an experienced leader who served party in various capacities. He was our minister in the previous term,” said Khattar.
Replying to a question, he said there was no lobbying and appointments to such positions are made with due consultation. “It is not that such things are in the hands of one person, had it been so, this (appointment) would have been done two months ago. There are consultations and discussions on party forum, party observers take feedback, names are discussed and then final decision is left on party’s central leadership,” he said.
Khattar said he had met BJP national president J P Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, indicating that the issue of state unit chief had been discussed. “I got a telephone call from J P Nadda ji in the morning stating ‘we are making this decision’ and soon the announcement was made. I telephoned Dhankar and congratulated him,” he said.
Leader of Opposition and former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda also congratulated him.
Dhankar thanked the party high command for reposing faith in him and said he would dedicate himself to the cause to further strengthen the party. “I thank my party senior leadership for reposing faith in me,”PTI quoted Dhankar as saying.
By appointing Dhankar, the party is hoping to consolidate and expand its base in the Jat community. It is believed that Jats had played a significant role in BJP’s win in 2014 Assembly polls when the party was voted to power for the first time in Haryana. However, experts also believe that the BJP did not get the desired support from the community in 2019 Assembly polls when the party could get only 40 seats in the 90-member Vidhan Sabha, falling short by six seats for a simple majority. The BJP formed the government with the help of 10 MLAs of Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) of Dushyant Chautala, who is now the Deputy Chief Minister in the alliance government.
Dhankar is a two-time former national president of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha and the party will also use him to expand its influence among the farmers. After winning the state polls in 2014, he looked after the agriculture, irrigation and panchayat portfolio as a minister in ML Khattar’s Cabinet. As a minister, he used to visit the agriculture fields to interact with the farmers to have first hand experiences of their challenges. He claims that he was instrumental in providing canal water to 1,100 canal tail ends across the state. As state panchayat minister, he was also credited with introducing mandatory minimum education clause for representatives of panchayat bodies, which led to an increase in the number of educated office-bearers in rural bodies following the polls four years back. Dhankar, however, lost the 2019 state polls from Badli constituency of Jhajjar district.
Hailing from Dhakla village of Jhajjar, Dhankar occasionally sings Haryanvi ragnis (folk songs) to woo the rural supporters. He was a teacher for 11 years before moving to politics.
Dhankar’s appointment as state BJP president came little over two weeks after intense speculations that Union minister and Faridabad MP Krishan Pal Gurjar may be handed over the assignment. Several leaders had even congratulated Gurjar and it included a tweet by a senior party functionary, which was later deleted.
Party sources say former state finance minister Captain Abhimanyu, two-time MLAs Mahipal Dhanda and Kamal Gupta, Kurukshetra MP Nayab Saini and party’s state unit general secretary Sandeep Joshi were also in the race for consideration for the post.
The outgoing president Barala has served the party as its state head for the longest period in Haryana. He handled the responsibility since December 2014 when he was assigned the job after the then state president Ram Bilas Sharma became a Cabinet minister in the Khattar government. In 2016, Barala was again given the responsibility for a term of three years.