How is the first minister of Haryana

Manohar Lal Khattar: From cloth merchant to Haryana’s first BJP chief minister

Ironic, as a non-Jat, he is being entrusted with the task of etching the party’s imprimatur in a state where politics has always been intertwined with social identity — a factor that the party was able to overcome because to claim power on its own.

Not only will he have to deliver on the promise of good governance made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the campaign, Khattar would have to ensure the social re-engineering of the party managed to pull off in the just concluded assembly election to win against the odds is not reversed.

As a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pracharak and given his previous association with Modi, Khattar has a clear head-start. Not only does it mean greater comfort and alignment of objectives, it also means that the new chief minister and the Prime Minister will start with mutual trust — this has been the subtext of all key appointments undertaken since Modi took charge on 26 May.

“Khattar leads a frugal lifestyle and doesn't have many demands. Even though he has been active in politics since 1994, he continues to live a simple life. The family has seen many ups and downs and Khattar still remembers those days, "said Virender Singh Chauhan, a close associate of Khattar and a member of the RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP.

Khattar, who on Tuesday promised to provide a "transparent and corruption-free" government in Haryana, first came in contact with the RSS in 1975, when the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (the forerunner of the BJP) and RSS decided to oppose the imposition of Emergency by the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi. He finally joined the RSS in 1977.

“He joined RSS in his village. Khattar is among the very few people in Haryana who worked in every district (very similar to Modi's track record in Gujarat between 1988 and 1995) of the state. He has helped in formation of RSS units in entire Haryana, "said Chauhan.

This big shift was undertaken after Khattar had abandoned his initial plans of becoming a doctor. But not before he gave it a try. After completing his schooling from Pandit Neki Ram Sharma Government College in Rohtak — he was the first in the family to clear the 10th grade — Khattar moved in with relatives in Delhi who were running a cloth shop out of Sadar Bazar to prepare for the medical entrance examinations.

The idea was to join coaching classes, but he realized that to become a doctor he would have to commit nine years of his life, first to graduate and then later to conclude his specialization in medical school. It was too big a commitment to make and instead he chose to join the clothing business, initially with his relatives, and later branched out on his own.

His family, like many others, were migrants out of West Punjab, now in Pakistan, and had to work their way up.Khattar's father, Harbans Lal Khattar, had migrated after partition and their first child was born seven years later on January 1, 1954 .

Initially, his father and grandfather used to work as agricultural labor and also managed a small shop. The savings eked out by the family were used to buy some land in Banyani village; the family shifted residence to adjoining Nindana village in Rohtak district of Haryana.

Within three years of joining the RSS in 1980, when Khattar was 26-years-old, he opted to become a pracharak (a full-time worker of RSS). The decision to never marry and work for an organization was not exactly the life of his family members had planned for Khattar. The family wanted him to get married and settle down in Delhi and continue to run his clothing business, which was doing well. But Khattar chose otherwise after he attended a congregation of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Allahabad.

After working for 14 years in the RSS, Khattar was asked to become general secretary (organization) in Haryana in 1994. This was a moment when the politics of the state was dominated by the Jat community, the single largest social grouping in Haryana, making up an estimated 27% of the population.

Interestingly, a year later, Khattar came in contact with Modi, who had shifted to Delhi and was made in-charge of Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

“Manohar Lal has worked closely with Narendra Modi for nearly 20 years now. When Modi became the prime ministerial candidate of BJP, Khattar managed elections in Haryana. Modi had started his Lok Sabha campaign from Rewari in Haryana, "said Ramesh Bhatia, a close friend of Khattar who is based in Rohtak.

Khattar faced his first political test in 1996 when the BJP decided to join hands with Bansi Lal’s Haryana Vikas Party to form the government in the state. However, the alliance didn't last long and the BJP withdrew its support and decided to provide outside support to prominent Jat leader Om Prakash Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).

The association with the INLD worked well for the BJP as the two parties won all the 10 seats in Haryana during the 1999 Lok Sabha election and contributed to Atal Bihari Vajpayee becoming the first BJP prime minister of the country.

When Modi took charge of Gujarat and became chief minister after the 2001 earthquake in Bhuj, he asked Khattar to become election in-charge in Kutch district, which has six assembly seats. The BJP won three of the seats and Modi returned as the chief minister of Gujarat. "Narendra Modi had said after the elections that these seats were a bonus for BJP," added 56-year-old Bhatia.

The close association between Modi and Khattar again played a role when Modi was made the prime ministerial candidate. Khattar was appointed the chairman of the election campaign committee of Haryana and BJP won seven out of the eight Lok Sabha seats in the state.

It was only logical that when the opportunity arose, Khattar was ahead of other contenders for the chief minister’s post in Haryana. The fact that he was a non-Jat came as the clincher.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now !!

Topics