Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist and first-time Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Manohar Lal Khattar on Tuesday was selected as the leader of state legislature party (SLP) in Haryana and will be the new chief minister.
The 47 newly elected BJP MLAs in Haryana met in Chandigarh to come to a decision, with Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu and BJP's vice-president Dinesh Sharma overseeing the process at the legislature party meeting.
Khattar – a Punjabi – faced competition from Brahmin leader Ram Bilas Sharma, who was elected from Mahendergarh, and Jat leader Captain Abhimanyu, the Narnaund MLA. He will be sworn in October 26, according to TV reports.
Sixty-year-old Khattar, a sworn bachelor, has the backup of the RSS is seen as close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who endorsed his name on Sunday for the CM's post in Haryana.
Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu arrives in Chandigarh for BJP MLAs meeting pic.twitter.com/TzjNhPzlex— ANI (@ANI_news) October 21, 2014
Khattar's selection silenced his critics, who said he lacks administrative experience as well as a popular base.
Khattar, often dubbed an "outsider" by rivals, also outdid the Jat-Punjabi rivalry that runs deep in the northern state.
"The majority view is in favour of having a non-Jat as chief minister," a BJP leader had said earlier.
Khattar, who has been an RSS pracharak for the past 40 years and an active BJP member for more than 20 years, won the Karnal seat with a big margin of more than 63,000 votes in his debut election.
He belongs to Rohtak's Nindana village.
Khattar has worked as an organising secretary in Haryana BJP when Modi was the in-charge of party affairs in the state.
The very fact that the BJP fielded him from Karnal, considered a rather safe seat for the party, gave ample indication of its plans for the Punjabi leader.
The BJP created history in the 90-member Haryana assembly by increasing its tally from a miniscule four seats to poll-winning 47. The party's vote share, too, galloped from 9% to 33%.