By bringing Bishnoi to BJP, Khattar has strengthened his position as today's tallest non-Jat leader of Haryana

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
New Update
Kuldeep Bishnoi with Chief Minister Manoharlal Khattar

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is not only strengthening his position in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but also among the non-Jats.


His move to rope in former Adampur legislator Kuldeep Bishnoi should be seen in that perspective. Bishnoi has limited influence in Haryana though his father and three-term chief minister late Bhajan Lal was among the political stalwarts of the state.

It is widely believed that Bishnoi brings nothing to the BJP table given that he has been a political tourist, switching sides at regular intervals. At best, he is likely to retain his Adampur seat – he or his family has never lost an election from this constituency since 1968 -- and beyond that it is difficult to comprehend how the BJP gained by bringing him to the party fold.

It was out and out Khattar’s initiative. Having been the chief minister consecutively since 2014, Khattar, a Punjabi, has emerged as today’s tallest non-Jat leader of Haryana whose political landscape had been dominated by Jats for decades.


At 68, Khattar has seven more years to go to retire as per an unwritten norm prescribed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for BJP leaders to hold any position in the government and the party. His only rival in Haryana politics as of today is former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

Out of the total 28.6 million (2.86 crore) population in Haryana, Jats constitute 22.2 per cent followed by the Scheduled Castes at 21 per cent.

Among the other castes, Punjabis are eight per cent, Brahmins 7.5 per cent, Ahirs (Yadavs) 5.14 per cent, Vaish five per cent, Gujjars 3.35 per cent, Jat Sikhs 4 per cent, Rajputs 3.4 per cent, Meos and Muslims 3.8 per cent and Bishnoi 0.7 per cent.


Numerically, the Bishnois are politically insignificant and, therefore, his joining is not going to pay much electoral dividends but is just a symbolic move.

Bishnoi had been mulling to quit the grand old party ever since Hooda’s protégé Udai Bhan was appointed as the Haryana Congress president in April, replacing former union minister and Dalit leader Kumari Selja.

Having started his career as a Congress leader in 2004, he formed the Haryana Janhit Congress (Bhajan Lal) in 2007 after his exit from the grand old party.


In the 2009 assembly elections in Haryana, the HJC bagged seven seats but soon after six of that extended support to the Congress. They were later disqualified by the Punjab and Haryana high court.

In 2011 after the death of his father, he struck an alliance with the BJP. The two parties parted ways just before the 2014 assembly elections following his differences with the BJP leadership.

Bishnoi, 53, merged his party into the Congress after meeting Rahul Gandhi. He was named as a special invitee to the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body.


He won the 2019 assembly elections from Adampur on a Congress ticket. However, Bishnoi ditched the party in the Rajya Sabha elections in June this year when he cross-voted in favour of BJP-backed independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma, resulting in the defeat of senior Congress leader Ajay Maken. This was a successful coup by Khattar who ensured Maken’s defeat despite having the requisite numbers.

Bishnoi was subsequently expelled from the Congress and also removed as the CWC member. He has now resigned from the assembly to join the BJP.

Congress leaders claimed that Bishnoi jumped the ship as he and his son Bhavya are facing cases of alleged FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) violations by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). He is also under the scanner of the Income Tax department in connection with the alleged undisclosed overseas assets worth over Rs 200 crore.


However, Bishnoi said the cases are sub-judice and will be decided by the courts.

Bhavya had contested and lost the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Hisar on a Congress ticket. His wife was also a legislator from Hansi from 2014 to 2019.

The BJP will certainly not give the ticket to both him and his son or wife given that the party strictly follows the one family-one ticket rule only in exceptional cases. Though he nurses the ambition of becoming the chief minister, the BJP is unlikely to oblige him.

That said, the Congress party’s loss is a personal gain of Khattar and only time will tell how beneficial the shift has been for Bishnoi.