By Jaideep Sarin
Just about three months ago, a low-profile political leader moved into a rented house, No.216, in New Prem Nagar locality of Haryana’s Karnal town, where he was hardly known. But the occupant of that house now has become the most important person in the state.
Having taken oath as the 10th chief minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar will move from his three-room accommodation to two sprawling bungalows with a VVIP tag in Chandigarh’s upscale Sector 3. The heavily-guarded two-bungalow complex is part of the state chief minister’s residential premises, where an unmarried Khattar, 60, will reside.
Khattar, who described his profession in his election affidavit as “tuition work and agriculturist” and does not even own a motor vehicle in his name, mentioned that his annual income (according to the income tax return for 2013-14) was just Rs.273,315.
For the residents of Prem Nagar locality in Karnal, 130 km from Chandigarh, the ascent of Khattar in these 3-4 months is “meteoric”.
“When he moved into Karnal, no one knew him. He also kept a low-profile as he began his campaign (for state elections). No one knew that the man would be the chief minister and the most important man in the state. His rise is meteoric,” Tarsem Lal, a resident of the area, said.
Khattar, a former Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) ‘pracharak’, is not even a registered voter in the Karnal assembly constituency. He is, in fact, a registered voter in the Kalanaur constituency of Rohtak district.
The excitement of Khattar’s neighbours in the locality about his taking up the top job is all too evident.
“We never realised that this simple man could be the chief minister of the state. We are quite excited. We are sure that he will work for the development of Haryana, especially of Karnal,” Kavita, another resident of the locality, said.
In Khattar’s family village, Banyani, and his birthplace in Nindana village, both in Rohtak, residents said they were happy that a person from among them has become the chief minister.
“He has worked very hard over the years and dedicated his life to public and social service. Our family is proud of him. We hope that he will work for the entire state,” said Gulshan Khattar, younger brother of the chief minister, who lives in Banyani.
Khattar, who once aspired to be a doctor but ended up setting up a shop in Delhi’s Sadar Bazar area and later dedicated his life to the RSS, remained a ‘behind-the-scenes’ man in Haryana BJP politics. Having worked with Modi in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, he was chosen over others to be the chief minister despite being a first-time legislator.
A graduate from the Delhi University, Khattar will be the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader to be the chief minister in Haryana. This is the first BJP government in the state since the state’s formation in 1966.
The BJP created political history last Sunday by winning 47 of the 90 seats in the Haryana assembly in the polls held Oct 15. The party, till now, was used to play second fiddle to other regional parties in the state.