Albeit, there were several contenders for the Haryana top seat, the race for BJP chief ministerial candidate in the state is wide open as yet. The stereotype answer of the top BJP leaders to this question is the same -- it is the party high command and the parliamentary board who will decide on the CM issue.
Ahead in the race is Ram Bilas Sharma, 65, state BJP president and four-time MLA. He won the Mahendergarh assembly seat, after losing several polls since 1996. With Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh background, he is close to party national leaders.
Manohar Lal Khattar, 61, is Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue and is the Punjabi face of the party. Though hCapt Abhimanyu, e too does not have past electoral experience, he, too, is close to party national leaders.
Krishan Pal Gurjar, 57, Union minister of state in the Narendra Modi government, has been three-time MLA and is a former BJP president. He comes from the backward community.
Likewise, Capt Abhimanyu, 46, has been party’s national secretary and spokesperson and is a Jat leader. He had lost Lok Sabha polls in 2004 and 2009 from Rohtak and assembly election from Narnaund in 2009. He, too, is close to party national leaders.
Talks are also agog that the party may consider Union external minister Sushma Swaraj for the state CM’s chair. She hails from Ambala Cantt and was MLA from there at an age of 25 in 1977 defeating four-time CM Bansi Lal. She won the seat again in 1987 and was a cabinet minsiter. She was Haryana BJP president in 1979, though she subsequently joined the national politics. Though she is not contesting, her younger sister Vandana is contesting from Safidon.
Meanwhile, it was seen more than the anti-incumbency against Congress government – which had the distinction of two back-to-back terms in the state. Chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s prolonged failure to check open dissent among the party’s senior leaders played a major role in doing Congress in.
The voices of dissidence were loud and clear and that too from among the senior party leaders since long and it was only Hooda who failed to feel the heat. Not only two-time MP and Union minister and now Rajya Sabha member Kumari Selja openly accused Hooda of regional bias in development, there were many others who accused him of it and even quit the party ahead of the recent Lok Sabha elections. Hooda, probably still failed to sense it when the party lost nine of the total Lok Sabha seats, while BJP won 7 of the eight seats it contested.
First among them the party rebels included three-time Congress MP from Gurgaon Rao Inderjit Singh, who is now minister in Modi government. One of the tallest Jat leader from Bangar area and former Congress AICC general secretary and Rajya Sabha member Birender Singh, Congress MLA Dharambir, and even Hooda’s own confidante Venod Sharma, former Congress MLA from Ambala city, besides several others quit the party accusing him of the same.