ML Khattar takes oath as Haryana's first BJP CM
Manohar Lal Khattar, Haryana's first chief minister from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), took oath at a high-profile event attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Panchkula on Sunday.
Alongside the 60-year-old former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist, nine ministers -six holding cabinet ranks and three ministers of state (independent charge) - were also sworn in.
Haryana governor Kaptan Singh Solanki administered the oath of office and secrecy to Khattar at the Mela Ground in Sector 5 of Panchkula town, adjoining Chandigarh.
Apart from Modi, the high-profile event was attended by some of his cabinet colleagues, chief ministers of BJP-ruled states and RSS leaders. Senior BJP leaders such as Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were also present.
Khattar is the 10th chief minister of the state, which was created November 1, 1966.
It is after 18 years that a non-Jat was sworn in as the Haryana chief minister. Before Khattar, the last non-Jat CM was Bhajan Lal, a Bishnoi. He had been in power from 1991 to 1996.
Since 1996, successive Jat leaders — Bansi Lal of the HVP-BJP, Om Prakash Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Bhupinder Singh Hooda of the Congress — have ruled the state.
The BJP had scripted history in the recently held Haryana assembly elections, winning 47 of the 90 seats in the state that helped the party form the government on its own. The party's vote share, too, had galloped from 9% to 33%.
The six cabinet ministers sworn-in on the occasion were Ram Bilas Sharma, Abhimanyu, OP Dhankar, Anil Vij, Rao Narvir Singh and Kavita Jain.
The ministers of state (MoS) who were administered the oath of office and secrecy were Bikram Singh Thekedar, Krishan Bedi and Karan Dev Kamboj. They all will hold independent charges.
(L to R) Rambliash Sharma, Manohar Lal Khattar, Anil Vij and OP Dhankar during the oath ceremony at Panchkula on Sunday. (HT Photo)
Who is Khattar?
Khattar - a Punjabi - is a sworn bachelor. He has the backup of the RSS and is seen as close to Modi, who endorsed his name for the CM's post in Haryana.
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 had 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.
Kaptan Singh Solanki, Haryana governor and Manohar Lal Khattar during the oath ceremony at Panchkula on Sunday. (HT Photo)
The new chief minister has no previous administrative experience. He will have to take care of his greenhorn cabinet team as well.
Khattar, who is known in the BJP circles as a strategist, will be tested for his administrative acumen and the ability to deliver.
All in the stars?
Planetary positions seem to have decided the day and the time of Khattar's oath-taking.
It was evident from the official invite to the swearing-in ceremony, where the time of oath-taking was printed as a precise 11.23am.
"The date and the time seem to have been chosen carefully," said Chandigarh-based astrologer Prem Kumar Sharma, adding: "Tritiya tithi and Anuradha nakshatra fall on October 26, which are quite favourable (star positions)."
Another astrologer said that at the time, Mangal (Mars) would be in lagna (ascendant).
"Mars is a planet of aggression, which shows that the new chief minister would be an assertive individual. During this period, Sun will be in the 11th house, which is a house of gains but associated with enemy planets Venus and Saturn, indicating loss of sheen in governance," said the fortuneteller.
(with IANS inputs)