New Delhi: Weeks after Bharatiya Janata Party’s defeat in Himachal Pradesh, the Manohar Lal Khattar government may be facing trouble as its ally Jannayak Janta Party is keen to push for the Old Pension Scheme implementation in Haryana.
With Lok Sabha and state Assembly polls scheduled for next year, the BJP government may be staring at a break in the alliance before the elections.
Sources stated that Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala’s demands regarding the implementation of OPS for government employees in Haryana have been conveyed to the BJP's central leadership. It is believed that the Deputy CM is insisting on at least the announcement of a rethink on the National Pension Scheme or its remodelling to help ensure that government employees are not ticked off.
“The move by the JJP has apparently been prompted after the Congress's success in the recent Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls. The party feels that the OPS is turning out to be an issue related to the masses and could damage its vote share if it isn’t addressed swiftly,” sources said.
If the implementation of OPS becomes an issue ahead of the Assembly polls, the BJP and its ally JJP could face a major reversal of the voting pattern. Government employees and pensioners are a significant and powerful chunk of the vote bank of Haryana. Any party which wants to retain or regain power in the state cannot afford to overlook the demands of this powerful lobby, sources pointed out.
The Himachal Pradesh government had last week decided to restore the OPS for government employees, who are currently covered under NPS.
The decision was taken in the Cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.
The restoration of the OPS was one of the key promises extended by the Congress party during recent and widely hailed as an issue that has helped the grand old party. The Congress governments in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan too have restored OPS for their respective government employees.
If the success of OPS implementation policy in Congress-ruled states is an indication, the grand old party is also likely to promise OPS to Haryana voters and make it an electoral issue ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, sources added.
This is the latest trouble for the BJP government in the state after reports of a rift between Chief Minister Khattar and senior leaders’ unit chief OP Dhankar and Ahir strongman Rao Inderjit Singh.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to seek a third term in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Haryana is a key state in BJP’s strategic plan and the saffron unit can ill afford to lose the crucial state.
Earlier, the BJP had used the consolidation of non-Jat votes to ride to victory in the 2014 and 2019 state legislative Assembly polls. The party fears losing parts of its non-Jat consolidated vote in the region which could adversely affect its seat count if OPS implementation becomes an issue in Haryana, sources added.
The top leadership is soon expected to take a decision to resolve the impending crisis as the thoughts of its partner, the JJP, have been conveyed to it, sources said.
Currently, the 90-member Haryana Legislative Assembly has BJP 40, Jannayak Janta Party 10 and Congress 31 members. The other seats are held by Indian National Lok Dal and Independents.
The BJP secured 49 seats in the 2014 Haryana Assembly polls, forming its first-ever government in the state under Khattar. However, BJP had to ally with the JJP in 2019 after its seats fell short of the halfway mark due to rebel candidates.
While the BJP had secured seven out of the ten Lok Sabha seats in 2014, the state had given all 10 seats to the saffron unit in 2019. The BJP is hoping to repeat its 100 per cent strike rate in Haryana in the 2024 general elections.