Some 92 Khaps, a highly influential self-styled caste councils, in Haryana hold the key to the outcome of assembly polls even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to them ahead of hustings.
Khaps have drawn flak in recent years for controversial diktats on same-gotra (sub-caste) marriages and other issues.
Besides, they have played a crucial role in resolving movement launched for reservation of Jats.
Some of the major Khaps in Haryana include Nogama, Khera, Kandela, Meham Choubasia, Ghatwal and Satrol.
These khaps have considerable influence in districts of Jhajjar, Rohtak, Bahadurgarh, Sonipat, Jind, Hisar, Kaithal, Gurgaon, Bhiwani and Mahendragarh.
Noting their importance political parties too have tried to romp them in the electoral battle.
Three major khap leaders from Haryana are in the fray in the elections. Head of Ghatwal khap Baljeet Malik has been fielded by the BJP from Baroda assembly seat.
While Shamsher Kharka, chief of Meham Choubasia khap, is fighting on the BJP ticket from Meham seat, Kandela khap's head Tekram is trying his luck as independent candidate from Jind.
Kharka had recently unsuccessfully contested Lok Sabha polls on Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) ticket from Rohtak. He was drubbed by chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda's MP son Deepender Singh.
Tekram made attempts to get Congress ticket, but could not succeed. Hence, he jumped as independent into the fray.
"Political parties keep a tab on khaps as they play significant role in removing differences on certain issues between the public and the government in power," says Sunil Jaglan, head of Bibipur village and Nogama khap.
Modi, during his canvassing in Haryana in Jind had reached out to Khaps or caste councils that hold sway in Haryana.