Khattar - Firmly rooted to ground, catapulted to top by Modi

An RSS man, Manohar Lal Khattar toiled on the ground to build the organisation for last four decades till he was handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lead the first BJP government in Haryana.

Panchkula: An RSS man, Manohar Lal Khattar toiled on the ground to build the organisation for last four decades till he was handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lead the first BJP government in Haryana.

The 60-year-old bachelor, known for his simple lifestyle and clean image, may be a first-time MLA but he has earned himself the reputation of a tough task master with a no-nonsense approach while working behind-the-scenes in key positions in BJP and is admired for organisational skills.

However, it is his proximity with Modi, who himself was a pracharak for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), that catapulted him to the Chief Minister's post.

The man, whose parents worked as labourers and who once wanted to be a medico, has become the first Punjabi chief Minister of Haryana and the first non-Jat leader to occupy the post after 18 years.

Known for his political acumen, Khattar played the role of a master strategist and successfully led many electoral campaigns for his party, the latest being 2014 Parliamentary elections in Haryana as chairman of Election Campaign Committee.

It was in 1996, when Khattar was actively working in Haryana, that he first began working with Modi, who was then in charge of the state. In 2002, Khattar was given alloted Jammu and Kashmir as the state's election Incharge.

Notably, Prime Minister Modi started his election campaign for the 2014 Haryana assembly polls by addressing his first rally on October 4 at Karnal, the constituency from where Khattar recorded an emphatic win.

Coming from a humble agricultural background, his family arrived in Haryana from Pakistan post-partition.

They settled at Nindana, a village situated in Haryana's Rohtak district. To survive, his father and grandfather took up odd jobs as labourers, finally saving enough to start a small shop. It was in Nindana that Khattar was born in 1954.

Before he joined RSS as a full-time 'pracharak' in 1980,

Khattar ran a shop in Delhi's Sadar Bazar area and took care of his siblings.

In school, Khattar was at the forefront of all activities and also excelled in academics. Keen to pursue a medical degree, he looked towards applying for colleges, despite his opposition from his father who wanted him to take to farming like the rest of the family.

He borrowed money from his mother and enrolled himself in Rohtak's Neki Ram Sharma Government College. He had become the first member of his family to study beyond Class X.

To prepare for entrance tests to medical colleges, Manohar Lal made his way to Delhi, but then borrowed money from his family to open a shop near Sadar Bazaar in the city. Hard work and determination showed results, Khattar returned the borrowed money to his parents, got his younger sister married, and called his two siblings to Delhi.

He also completed his graduation from Delhi University while simultaneously managing his business activities.

After 14 years of service to the Sangh, Khattar was moved to BJP as party general secretary in Haryana in 1994.

In 1996, BJP allied with Bansi Lal's Haryana Vikas Party (which later merged with Congress) to form the government in the state. However, when Khattar noticed that the alliance was "proving costly" for the party and the government

had become unpopular, he favoured withdrawal of support from the government.

BJP then decided to provide outside support to Om Prakash Chautala. Later, this coalition with INLD won all 10 seats in the 1999 parliamentary elections from Haryana, a better outcome than 2 out of 10 seats they had secured in 1998.

His tenure as party general secretary established him as a strategist, an able and firm handed administrator, and a man who had a keen sense of the state's politics.

Khattar was also called upon to manage elections in the Kutch district by Narendra Modi in the aftermath of the Bhuj earthquake and the BJP secured three out of six seats. In the recent general elections, Khattar was incharge of 50 wards in Varanasi, Modi's Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

The first elections held in the then newly created state of Chhattisgarh also saw Khattar's invaluable contribution. He worked in Bastar which traditionally favoured Congress and BJP won 10 out of 12 seats - thus playing a decisive role in bringing BJP to power in the state.

Apart from his crucial role in the party's success in states like Punjab, Haryana and Chhattisgarh, he was given prominent roles in various elections in different states where he always delivered results.

In 2004, Khattar found himself in charge of 12 states, including Delhi and Rajasthan. He then worked under the leadership of the nationally renowned RSS ideologue Balasaheb Apte, who was then heading the Chunaav Sahayak Yojana.

Immediately thereafter he was entrusted with the responsibility as regional sangathan mahamantri for five states - Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh. His tenure saw several successes for the party in these states. During this time, BJP won 11 seats for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir.

For the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, Khattar was appointed the Chairman of Election Campaign Committee (Haryana) contributing to the party's thumping success in which it won seven of the eight seats it contested from State.

In Khattar's words, politics is an instrument to bring change and improve lives of citizens.

A leader, he feels, has to have vision and should be able to motivate people to bring about a change at the same time.

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