Will an honest and a gentle chief minister survive the rising tide of protesting Jats and restive BJP legislators? Completing three years of his expected five year term, Manohar lal Khattar has to demonstrate sagacity and tactics in order to smoothly sail through the political turmoil which he faces. This volatile uproar, partly the result of his lack of experience and tact and partly the creation of restless Jats seeking reservation and his own BJP legislators is proving too hot for this first time MLA to handle.
Manohar lal, in October 2014 was chosen by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and had the blessings of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which he had joined in 1977 to become a pracharak. He had held no public office and this was his first election in a Jat dominated political landscape of Haryana.
Sadly his Punjabi origin, an anathema for many Jats has not much endeared him ether to Punjabis or other castes who suffered loss of life and properties during the unprecedented violence that rocked the state last February when reservation seeking Jats pushed the government to an edge. BJP government failed to meet the challenge, both administratively and politically, losing much of the moral right to govern. Later, it failed to provide adequate compensation, punish those who indulged in violence and shirked its responsibility to implement the recommendations of the Parkash Singh committee, appointed by the government which had probed the administrative failure during these tragic events. It has also got repeatedly slammed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Since then it has been a downhill journey.
Manohar lal tried to buy peace by enacting a fresh legislation to provide reservation to Jats and five other castes. The BJP leaders knew that such laws have been struck down by the Supreme Court as the previous UPA government as well as the NDA had failed to provide a rationale to cross the fifty per cent reservation threshold. Even this week, the high court asked the government to prove that Jats and other five castes Jat Sikhs, Rors, Bishnois, Tyagis and Mulla Jat/Muslim Jat backward .The Haryana Backward Classes (Reservation in Services and Admission in Educational Institutions) act is under challenge. The government which also created Haryana Backward Classes Commission has so failed to show enough proof that these castes are socially and economically backward. A new classification Block ‘C’ in the Backward Classes category has not satisfied the courts so far.
For the past three weeks Jats are staging protests, mostly peaceful. But they now threaten to stop supply of milk and later vegetables to the national capital and hold a massive demonstration outside the parliament in the first week of March. Earlier, they had tried to stop water supply to the Delhi. This movement that has got massive response and support from the two main opposition parties, the Congress and the INLD can go out of hand.
To make matters more difficult for the embattled chief minister nearly a dozen BJP MLAs from southern Haryana have lodged a complaint with the party high command for “being ignored in their own regime”. Two major cases of corruption one involving purchase of electronic meters and the other about costly land in Gurugram could tarnish the BJP government’s image that always harks on honest public life.
These MLAs have approached party national president Amit Shah who has reportedly asked Manohar Lal to resolve their grievances, lest the party faces embarrassment during the budget session, currently underway. But these MLAs who met the chief minister twice at his residence are dissatisfied by his response. Reports quote a dozen MLAs vent their frustration “of being treated like Opposition MLAs”. These “annoyed” MLAs complained about corruption which they found to be rampant in the state and while the ministers were “busy misusing their authority”. The MLAs allege they could not even get the smallest of works done. “The DC and SPs do not even take an MLA’s phone.” They told the CM that the BJP government should be run by all 47 MLAs and not just the ministers. Khattar, sources said, preferred to listen rather than respond. The group is also learnt to enjoy the support of at least five ministers, unhappy at the CM’s “headmaster-like” attitude.
The MLAs are now threatening to raise the issue of corruption in the assembly and BJP’s Haryana in charge Dr Anil Jain met Rewari MLA Randhir Singh Kapriwas to dissuade him from any such action. Gurgaon MLA Umesh Aggarwal then called Amit Shah, who is campaigning in UP. Shah reportedly assured Aggarwal of resolving their grievances once he is back on March 11, while asking them to desist from anything that embarrasses the government.
In an assembly of 90, BJP has 47 MLAs and enjoys the support of five MLAs (four Independents and one BSP), who have supported the group “unhappy” with Khattar. INLD has 19 legislators, Congress 17 and Akali Dal one. There may not be an immediate threat to the government