Cracks in its alliance with the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), the desperation to beat anti-incumbency ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, and subsequent Assembly polls, have led to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) changing its guard in the northern state of Haryana.

Tuesday, March 12 was a day full of drama in the state. The Manohar Lal Khattar-led government stepped down in the morning, and by evening a new government came into being under Nayab Singh Saini. This government reportedly has the support of six of the seven independents, and a lone legislator of the Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP).

Saini is the sitting Lok Sabha member from Kurukshetra and an Other Backward Caste (OBC) face of the BJP. He had been made the state unit chief last year. He has risen through the ranks. Chances are that the BJP might field Khattar for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls from his home district of Karnal.

At the back of these sudden developments are the emerging caste combinations and permutations ahead of the polls. These compelled BJP to resort to a change of guard, somewhat on the lines of Gujarat and Uttarakhand earlier.

The Khattar-led BJP government had returned to power in 2019 following a post-poll alliance with the Dushyant Chautala-led JJP. Chautala was appointed the deputy Chief Minister.

The BJP had won 41 seats while the latter had 10 seats in the 90 member house. The Congress had won 30 seats, the independents seven along with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and HLP winning one seat each.

Cracks in the strenuous BJP-JJP alliance had widened earlier this week following the failure to arrive on a seat sharing formula for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. The JJP was seeking to contest Bhiwani-Mahendragarh and Hisar parliamentary seats.

The BJP on the other hand is adamant on contesting all the 10 seats, after its offer to the JJP on fielding its candidate on Kurukshetra seat was declined by the JJP. A trigger for this development was the Hisar BJP MP Brijendra Singh’s resignation from the saffron party, to join the Congress on Sunday.

The JJP had a meeting in Delhi after Khattar cabinet’s resignation. Despite four of his MLAs reportedly being absent, Chautala claimed that the JJP is united. There are reports that the JJP is ready to fight all the 10 Lok Sabha and 90 Vidhan Sabha seats.

Addressing the people of Haryana Chautala said in a tweet, “You have given me the opportunity to serve the state as the Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana, I consider it my good fortune and express my gratitude to every person of Haryana from the bottom of my heart.

“Your support and cooperation for the welfare of Haryana and public works has always been energising for me. With limited time and limited numbers, we have worked day and night to protect the interests of Haryana.

“We have got the work of every section and every area of Haryana done in the government. I will always be grateful to you for the constant trust you have shown in us and the support you have always given us during our times of difficulty and struggle.

“I assure you that following the footsteps of Jan Nayak Chaudhary Devi Lal ji, I will always be dedicated to protecting the interests of Haryana and the people of Haryana. Our efforts for social and economic security of the people of Haryana will continue. I express my gratitude to every resident of Haryana for their cooperation and support.”

Party president Nishan Singh has stated that the JJP will announce its future course of action at a Nav Sankalp rally in Hisar on Wednesday.

Veteran political observers say that the departure of Khattar as well as the collapse of the BJP-LJP alliance was written on the wall for quite some time. They say that the BJP was compelled to ally with Chautala who was the Khattar government’s Jat face.

Over the last decade the saffron party had sprung a surprise by appointing Khattar, a Punjabi, as the CM in a Jat dominated polity. This had led to the Jats largely keeping to the Congress as well as the INLD fold.

Amid this the Jat reservation stir that had resulted in ‘engineered’ isolation of the community in 2016 played a vital role. The scenario that emerged was that of ‘one against 35 communities’ in the 36 Biradari (community) social set up in the state.

Observers say that the BJP would now be keen that the JJP goes alone in the forthcoming Parliamentary and Assembly polls as it would eat into the Jat vote bank that comprises almost one fourth of the total electorate. Congress is eyeing a return to power in the state and has a strong Jat support base and so does the INLD in its pockets.

“Dushyant was on an Agniveer assignment in the BJP’s scheme of things. It so happens that he lasted an additional six months,” an observer quipped.

The JJP had come into existence as a breakaway entity of the INLD ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls whose tallest leader was the former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal. However, it had failed to win any seat in the parliamentary polls that year.

Haryana has the reputation of initiating the politics of defections referred to as “aaya Ram, gaya Ram” in Indian politics some time ago. Observers say that the Congress was pushed out of power in the state following the departure of the Scheduled Castes (SC) and OBC support base.

Now the SCs have been returning to its fold along with some sections of the OBCs. “This is because of the anti people policies of the Khattar as well as the central government that have led to livelihood issues coming to the fore. Apart from this the BJP’s ‘upper caste’ politics is to be blamed. These issues are normally not touched by anyone,” the observer said adding that

Chautala, after his ‘utility’ was a liability for the BJP at this point of time.

While the BJP with the help of the embedded media has always played up Khattar’s image of being a leader who had brought clean administration to the state, his detractors point to the repeated unravelling of the Khattar regime.

They highlight the violence during the Jat reservation stir, the role played by his government in tackling the farmers’ movement, frequent paroles given to Dera Saccha Sauda chief Ram Rahim who is convicted of rape and murder, and the recent spiraling of crime in the state.

It is to overcome this anti-incumbency that the BJP has tried to do what it had done in Gujarat and Uttarakhand ahead of the Assembly polls there, to return to power successfully.

After the swearing in of the Saini government, Khattar said in a tweet, “Hearty congratulations and best wishes to Shri @NayabSainiBJP ji on taking oath as the Chief Minister of Haryana. I have full confidence that you will continuously work for the welfare of the citizens of the state with the BJP's resolution of 'Developed India-Developed Haryana'.”

Meanwhile, there have been sharp political reactions from the opposition to the developments that took place on Tuesday. Former CM and leader of opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda claimed that the BJP-JJP have accepted defeat even before the elections, by breaking the alliance and changing the CM.

“It is clear from this decision that a failed coalition government was running in the state, which had completely disillusioned the people. Therefore, the government had to change the chief minister and deputy chief minister just before the elections. By doing this the BJP is trying to divert attention from the failures of nine and a half years. The BJP has no moral right to remain in power in the state. Assembly elections should be conducted immediately by immediately imposing President's rule in the state,” Hooda stated.

Hooda added that the people of Haryana have now understood this game of collusion, and this strategy is not going to work again. “This time in the elections, the public will take revenge for the betrayal by BJP-JJP in 2019. People still remember how the BJP-JJP government lathi-charged the farmers, and released tear gas shells on them. Seven hundred and fifty farmers were martyred during the movement. But JJP never spoke in favour of the farmers. The daughters who brought glory to the country continued protesting on the streets of Delhi, but JJP always stood firmly with the accused,” the ex-CM said.

Adding to this Congress’ national general secretary Kumari Selja who hails from the state said “the BJP has been misleading the people for the last nine and a half years and after throwing dust in the eyes of the people of Haryana for four and a half years, if the BJP is thinking that the people will forget everything, then it is their delusion.”

On the other hand the INLD chief Abhay Chautala who is a sitting legislator posted a tweet saying, “By changing the CM, BJP has admitted that they were ruining the state. People had defeated BJP in 2019 itself. It formed the government with the help of traitors.

“That thugbandhan looted, committed corruption for four and a half years and created a drama as soon as the elections came. This means you are admitting that you are losing the election badly. The public should also consider why this decision is being taken today only, why was it not taken earlier?”

Senior Aam Aadmi Party leader in the state Anurag Dhanda claimed, “The BJP government of Haryana has been a very corrupt government. This government has lost the trust of the people of Haryana.

“The BJP government should immediately resign and hold assembly elections in Haryana. The Jugaad government that is being formed by installing this tape is a plan to loot the people of Haryana for the next 6 months. This loot should be stopped immediately and a new government should be formed after assembly elections in Haryana.”

Haryana is set to witness a long political drama in the coming months till the time a new government comes to power. A few months down the line, the state Assembly polls are to follow the soon to be announced parliamentary polls