Short of numbers in Haryana, the BJP Friday night announced an alliance with the fledgling Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) of Dushyant Chautala to return to power in the state after accepting what it called the “spirit of the mandate”. The new government will be led by the BJP — Manohar Lal Khattar is likely to become Chief Minister again — while the Deputy Chief Minister will be from the 10-member JJP.
The announcement was made by BJP national president Amit Shah in the presence of Khattar, Chautala and BJP working president J P Nadda, bringing to an end moves that saw it explore the option of teaming with Independents including Gopal Kanda of the Haryana Lokhit Party.
Kanda’s presence in Delhi raised eyebrows, led to an uproar outside the party and unease within given that he remains on trial, the main accused in the death of a young air hostess who used to work for his now defunct MDLR Airlines. BJP veteran Uma Bharti, in a series of tweets, cautioned the leadership against any truck with Kanda.
The JJP, BJP sources said, was always a better option than the demanding Independents because it would come as a bloc and lend stability to the government. Earlier in the day, after being elected leader of the JJP legislature party, Chautala too sent clear signals: “No one is untouchable for us… We will support whichever party agrees to implement our agenda as part of a common minimum programme.”
Six short of majority in the 90-member House, the BJP settled for JJP. “Spirit of the mandate has been accepted and leaders of the BJP and JJP took the decision jointly,” Shah said after meeting Chautala at his residence. Stitching an alliance with the JJP, which is strongly backed by the Jat community, and the decision to make its leader the Deputy Chief Minister are seen as BJP attempts to placate the influential Jat community which is believed to have voted against the BJP and Khattar in Haryana.
The BJP decision, which factors stability of the party-led government in Haryana, triggered speculation that the party might adopt the same pattern in Maharashtra where it is preparing to form a government with its pre-poll ally Shiv Sena. In Maharashtra too, the BJP lacks the numbers to form a government on its own.
Chautala, flanked by BJP leaders including party general secretary Anil Jain and Minister of State Anurag Thakur, said their coming together was to ensure a stable government. “It was important for the BJP and the JJP to come together to form a stable government in Haryana.”
Khattar said the party will stake claim to form the government on Saturday. Anil Jain announced that the legislature party will meet Saturday to elect its leader — a formality since the party has already decided that Khattar will head the government again.
Earlier, Khattar said he had letters of support from Independent MLAs and would prove his majority on the floor of the House.
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and BJP general secretary Arun Singh will attend the party meeting as central observers. In the 90-member state assembly, the BJP won 40 seats, while the Congress got 31, the JJP 10 and nine seats went to Others.
Earlier in the day, the BJP leaders were in discussions with six independent MLAs who had declared support for the BJP. But their demands for ministerial berths weighed heavily on the minds of the party leaders. Party sources said the support offer from the Independents, mostly BJP rebels who contested against the official candidates after being denied tickets, had made the BJP’s position stronger in its negotiations with the JJP.
But Uma Bharti, in a series of tweets, warned the party leadership against hobnobbing with leaders like Kanda.
“Victory in an election cannot exonerate Gopal Kanda. There are many factors involved in a win in an election. I would appeal to the BJP that it should not forget its principles,” Bharti, who is currently in the Himalayas on the banks of the Ganga, said.
“If Gopal Kanda is the same man due to whom a girl committed suicide and later her mother too, then, we must, for the sake of morality and ethics, not take his support to form a government in Haryana. The case is still in court and he is out on bail. Elections cannot be seen as a validation of his legal or moral position.”
“When we have someone as powerful as Narendra Modi, we must abjure taking people like Kanda with us. We in the BJP believe in a moral life, and we should have people with us who believe the same,” Bharti said in her tweet.
Kanda had become kingmaker in 2009 too when the Congress emerged as the single largest party in Haryana with 40 seats. With the INLD securing 31 seats then, then Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda had taken Kanda’s support and he became a minister in his cabinet. Kanda had to resign after Delhi Police booked him for abetment to suicide in 2012 following the death of the air hostess.
Party sources said each one of the Independents wants a ministerial berth in the new government. Nayan Pal Rawat, one of the independent MLAs who was part of the discussions, maintained there was no condition. Asked whether he had sought to become a minister, he told The Indian Express: “Who does not want to be a minister? Like everyone, I too would like to be a minister so that I can serve my constituency and people to develop.” A BJP MLA in the outgoing assembly, Rawat contested as an Independent after he was denied a ticket by the party.