Even though Assembly elections in Haryana are more than 15 months away, the fight for the throne has already begun. But for Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, the battle is on many fronts.
It is not just the Opposition the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Congress– but the people of his own party– the BJP– who are out to get at him.
Many a leader has spoken against him at various fora. Four BJP MPs from Haryana, including Union Minister Rao Inderjit Singh and Ashwani Chopra who represents Khattar’s Assembly segment in Parliament, have publicly embarrassed him on more than one occasion.
One MP, Raj Kumar Saini from Kurukshetra, has raised a banner of revolt and has decided to launch his own party from August 15. Saini, a prominent leader of the OBCs, is miffed at Khattar’s stand on reservation for Jats.
But the irony is that the Jats are also angry with Khattar over the same issue. The difference is that while Saini thinks that Khattar’s stand will dilute the quota for OBCs and thus hurt his prospects in the elections, the Jats believe the Khattar government is dilly-dallying on the issue.
They have threatened not to allow any political rally of the BJP, be that of the chief minister or any other minister, across Haryana from August 15.
“The Haryana government must apprise the Supreme Court with all the facts and figures pertaining to Jats’ reservation at the earliest,” says Yashpal Malik, president of the Akhil Bhartiya Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti (ABJASS), the umbrella organisation of various Jat organisations across Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and New Delhi.
He has even threatened to urge the Jats to boycott elections in order to teach the BJP a lesson. And here the woes of not only Khattar but also of the BJP doubles.
If the BJP government specifies quota for Jats in the Supreme Court, then it will alienate the OBCs which form 24 per cent of the electorate in the State. And if it doesn’t, then it will anger the Jats and Sikh Jats who constitutes 17 per cent of the voters.
Jats are also the main farming community in Haryana, and they are already angry with the BJP for the agricultural crisis in the country. If the Jats decide to go against the BJP, then the party will not only have trouble in the upcoming Assembly elections in Rajasthan but also in the Lok Sabha polls in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, the three States where the community can tilt the balance in any party’s favour.
In these three-and-a-half years, Khattar has seemingly become unpopular with the people for his government’s certain policies and agenda. He has been criticised for attempting to saffronising education.
His government was trying to include into school syllabus books by Dinanath Batra, who is known to recast Indian history through a Hindu perspective. The government has already brought in books that include verses from the Gita and lessons on yoga, and was planning to have the Gayatri Mantra added during morning prayers in schools.
The Khattar government has also given the Opposition an issue on the platter by asking school students to fill a lengthy admission form giving details such as whether they are suffering from genetic disorders or whether their parents are engaged in any “unclean occupation” The Opposition parties the Congress and Om Prakash Chautala’s INDL have already started their campaigning.
Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has launched his 22-phase yatra across Haryana to connect to the people. However, his task is also not easy.
One, he is facing corruption charges in the Manesar land deal, a deal which the BJP says has duped the farmers of more than 1,500 crore and which the saffron party will use to tighten the noose around Hooda as the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections draw nearer.
Two, Hooda is facing a leadership battle within his own party with four more claimants to the post of chief minister which include State PCC chief Ashok Tanwar, Randeep Surjewala and Kumari Selja.
Perhaps, it is the CBI charges against him that has forced Hooda to start the poll campaign so early in the day. He wants to tell the people that the charges are all cooked up by the BJP as it see him as a formidable force with his huge Jat support base.
Chautala and his INDL has stitched up an alliance with Mayawati’s BSP which had a 4-5 per cent vote share in the previous elections. Perhaps, Chautala thinks that BSP’s Dalit support base will help him come back on the Haryana throne. May be. Since he too is facing serious corruption charges and has been in jail for years, it won’t be an easy going.
As if the three competing parties were not enough, a fourth contender the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has thrown its hat in to the poll arena. AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal’s possibly wants to get away from Delhi and get to a State where he can actually govern.
Besides, Haryana is his home State. But his stand on the Satluj- Yamuna link canal during the Punjab elections may very well come to haunt him in the Haryana elections and may pour water over his ambitions. These are the reasons every contender wants to start their campaigning so early.>