Opposition to the key strategist of the Bharatiya Janata Party Manohar Lal Khattar, who is party candidate from Karnal assembly segment, became apparent on Sunday when local MP Ashwini Kumar Chopra ‘Minna’ accused him of crossing the party line by projecting himself as the chief ministerial candidate.
In a telephonic interview to Hindustan Times from his New Delhi residence, Minna, owner of a Hindi daily who was elected BJP MP from Karnal in the recent Lok Sabha elections, said Khattar’s unauthorised projection had caused “genuine” heartburn among the committed leaders from Karnal.
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He gave a firm advice to Khattar to avoid making unfounded claims to the CM’s post.
A member of the BJP national executive, Khattar is a senior party functionary with a strong Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) background. In an interview to HT this week, Khattar had stated that he had worked closely with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for more than two decades and there was nothing wrong if he projected himself as CM candidate.
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Minna, however, said, “The BJP’s central leadership has said it will go to assembly polls without projecting anyone as the CM candidate. But for the last more than a month, Khattar is making claims at various public meetings that he will become the CM, if elected from Karnal. It is purely against the party discipline and I am surprised that the party leadership has not taken cognisance of it.”
He said Khattar’s unofficial projection as a claimant to the CM post may affect the party’s electoral prospects.
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“Besides Khattar several other leaders have suddenly started calling themselves as close aides of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his core team. I see no sense in such projections and senior leaders like Khattar should avoid such gimmicks in the interest of the party,” the Karnal MP said.
“Khattar hails from Rohtak, whereas several BJP workers from Karnal were overlooked. I know that Khattar has a very high stature in the party and is in the group of senior BJP leaders who finalise poll candidates but his candidature from Karnal is not fair,” said Minna.
He also expressed dissatisfaction over the candidature of youth leader Mahipal Dhanda from Panipat Rural and senior BJP leader Bakshish Singh Virk from Assandh assembly segment of Karnal parliamentary constituency.
Stating that he was firm on his stand, Minna clarified that he would canvass for all candidates in his parliamentary constituency.
He, however, said he would not raise these issues at the party platform.
“To avoid any charge of corruption or favourtism, I had much earlier given in writing to the central BJP leadership that I will not refer any name from 10 assembly segments. But the way the candidates are announced in three seats of the total 10 segments of my constituency, it has evoked uneasy reactions from among the ranks of the district units of the BJP,” said Minna.
Ducking a query on criticism he faced for being an outsider, Minna said that he was regularly travelling from his New Delhi residence to meet people of his constituency.
“Even Narendra Modi had contested away from his home state and won from Varanasi so there is no point in targeting me on the issue. But the party should have preferred a local candidate for the assembly election – one who is acceptable to the local leadership,” he said.
When contacted, Khattar said fielding a candidate was the sole prerogative of the party’s central leadership. “I have nothing to comment on Minna’s views as I have not crossed the line,” he said.