Ram Bilas Sharma new Haryana BJP chief

The BJP on Saturday unanimously elected senior leader Ram Bilas Sharma as its Haryana chief. Sharma, however, has a blighted electoral history in the state, having last won an election in 1996.

He takes over from Krishan Pal Gurjar, MLA from Tigaon in Faridabad. Sharma's election is crucial as the party will go to next Assembly polls under this command with a new electoral partner, the HJC

His predecessor, Gurjar, a second-time MLA and a known critic of former chief minister and INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala, was instrumental in urging the saffron party's high command to forge an electoral alliance with the Kuldeep Bishnoi-led HJC.

As he made way, Gurjar expressed satisfaction over his tenure and said he was content that the party managed four seats under him in the last Assembly elections. "I also feel content that I could rid the party of the INLD. The alliance with Bishnoi is rock solid and the party will go to the next elections with the HJC and in case of a victory, will share power in the state," he said, adding that while Bishnoi will be the chief ministerial candidate for the first half, later a BJP candidate will take over.

On the other hand, Sharma, who was elected in the presence of BJP vice-president Kalraj Mishra, last won in 1996 when the party contested the Assembly elections in alliance with former chief minister Bansi Lal-led Haryana Vikas Party. The alliance, however, was plagued by serious differences and Sharma was behind the BJP joining hands with the Chautalas in 1999. He first was a minister in the Bansi Lal cabinet before moving to the Chautalas in mid 1999.

Sharma, however, lost in the 2000 Assembly elections and since then, his fortunes have headed south. He kept losing elections in 2005 and 2009, even forfeiting his deposit after being pitted against the late Surender Singh, Bansi Lal's son, Ajay Chautala and Kuldeep Bishnoi, then a Congress candidate, at Bhiwani during the Lok Sabha polls.

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