Four months before the Haryana Assembly elections, the BJP leadership has announced that the party will contest the polls alone under the leadership of Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini, who is also the state BJP president.

In March this year, just a few months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP leadership had sprung a surprise by replacing Manohar Lal Khattar with Saini as the CM. Khattar had been the CM for two consecutive terms since 2014. The BJP also cut its ties with its major ally, the Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janta Party (JJP).

The 54-year-old OBC (Other Backward Classes) leader Saini was then the Kurukushetra MP besides being the state BJP chief. The BJP leadership’s move to name Saini as the replacement for Khattar, a Punjabi face, was aimed to counter anti-incumbency against the latter besides consolidating the OBC and non-Jat votes in favor of the party.

The BJP hoped that the move would help it retain Haryana’s all 10 Lok Sabha seats that it had won in 2019. But, in the recent polls, the party could only secure five seats, with the main opposition Congress winning the remaining five. The BJP’s vote share also plunged to 46.11% from 58.21% in 2019, while the Congress’s vote share shot up to 43.67% from 28.51% in 2024.

Last Saturday, at a meeting of the BJP’s extended state executive meeting at Panchkula, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the party will go solo in the Assembly elections under Saini’s leadership, expressing confidence that it would return to power with a majority for the third consecutive time. term.

Festive offer

Shah’s statement assumes added significance as it virtually projects Saini as the BJP’s CM candidate in the Assembly polls. It is rare that the BJP declares its CM nominee in a state ahead of the Assembly polls.

The caste equations play a vital role in Haryana politics, which explains why the leading contenders go out of their way to balance it in the run-up to the polls.

In Haryana, OBCs account for the largest chunk of voters at about 30%, followed by Jats at nearly 25%, and the Scheduled Castes (SCs) at about 20%.

Led by veteran leader and ex-CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the Congress is considered to be well-entrenched in the Jat and Dalit belts across Haryana. In the Lok Sabha polls, the party won from three Jat-dominated constituencies, including Rohtak seat (Deepender Hooda), Sonipat (Satpal Brahmchari), and Hisar (Jai Prakash), where farmers also played a key role in determining the poll outcome.

The Congress also won both the SC-reserved constituencies including Sirsa (Kumari Selja) and Ambala (Varun Chaudhary). While Hooda is a Jat leader, his loyalist Udai Bhan, the state Congress president, belongs to the Dalit community.

The JJP, which is also set to fight the Assembly polls alone, is led by Dushyant Chautala, a Jat leader.

By projecting Saini as its face for the upcoming polls, the BJP has signaled that it would bank on its OBC vote bank in the state. However, the party is also reaching out to other communities, with CM Saini rolling out a raft of public welfare schemes for SCs, OBCs and the below-poverty-line (BPL) section.

On Sunday, at a program held at Panipat, Saini disbursed Rs 22.59 crore to 75,330 beneficiaries under the social security pension scheme. He also gave Rs 15.09 crore to 2,003 beneficiaries under Dr BR Ambedkar Awas Navinikarn Yojna for house repairs. Under Mukhamantri Gramin Awas Yojana6300 beneficiaries were also handed over entitlement certificates and financial assistance letters of Rs 1 lakh each for 100 square yard plots.

Last month, Saini removed the age cap under Mukhyamantri Kisan Evam Khetihar Mazdoor Jeevan Suraksha Yojana, under which farmers, agriculture laborers, and market yard laborers are eligible for financial assistance of Rs 37,500 to Rs 5 lakh in case of death or disability while operating agricultural machinery. The scheme earlier had an age cap of 65 years.

He then relaunched HAPPY cards enabling free bus travel up to 1,000 km for families with an annual income below Rs 1 lakh. He also announced 50,000 job opportunities for youth of Haryana, claiming that it would be filled up before the Assembly polls.

In recent days the BJP government has handed over possession letters of 100 sq yard plots each to over 7,500 BPL families. It has also earmarked Rs 100 crore for renovation of dharamshalas and chaupals for SCs and OBCs.

The BJP leaders say the Saini government’s bid to go into overdrive to implement various social welfare schemes reflected the party’s policy “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”. On his part, Saini said, “The government shall continue to work to simplify its welfare policies and continue to work in the people’s interest and remain committed to inclusive development without any disparity.”

The Congress is not likely to declare any CM candidate, given the factionalism in its ranks. The All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge of Haryana, Deepak Babaria said: “It is the Congress’s

70-year-old tradition that whoever is elected by the Legislature Party is announced as the CM. Also, there is 99.99% precedence that it authorizes the Congress president to declare the name (after the polls) and according to the elected legislators’ consensus.”