BY VISHAL GULATI
Chandigarh, Oct 15 (IANS) It’s a litmus test for BJP’s first Chief Minister in Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, who believes on the principles of ‘Ram Rajya’ to run state affairs.
Political observers believe the Assembly polls is a straight fight between Khattar’s ‘realistic’ vision to retain the helm for the second consecutive term and his arch rival two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda of the Congress who is struggling hard to return to the power with his past ‘populist’ initiatives.
First-time legislator Khattar is seeking re-election from Karnal and believes this will be a poll is between his development and corruption of the previous Congress government.
The other opposition parties in the fray are two prominent regional political outfits — the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Jannayak Janata Party, an INLD breakaway group, — the BSP, the Swaraj India and the AAP.
They have been raising the pitch against unemployment, law and order and lack of development. Their main focus is on the farming community, promising loan waiver to minimum support prices and free power, the women and the youth.
Khattar, who has toured aggressively across the state with 1.8 crore voters, during his campaigning has been harping on state’s overall development, nationalism and also lambasting his arch rival Hooda for unprecedented corruption during his two stints in the state.
“This is our Sankalp Patra (manifesto) for the next five years. It is time for our examination now. People will give the result. After five years, we will again appear in exams on the performance of this Sankalp Patra only,” he told IANS here.
The saffron party manifesto, which has 15 chapters and 248 points, focuses on the farmers and the Scheduled Castes with interest-free loans, free education for girls belonging to the poor families and skill training for 25 lakh youths.
Banking on pro-incumbency wave, a confident Khattar says the entire opposition is using ‘freebies’ just to woo the electorates as they know are not coming to power.
Khattar claims the manifesto of the Congress with focus on loan waiver to farmers and job reservations to women is unrealistic as it needed Rs 1,26,000 crore to fulfill those promises without making budgetary provisions for these.
“Our manifesto needs a budget allocation of Rs 32,000 crore that can be easily meted out through state resources,” he said.
Khattar believes the manifesto is in line with the principles of creating a Ram Rajya, meaning an honest government with zero tolerance to corruption and transparency.
BJP working President J.P. Nadda told IANS the political culture of the state has been drastically changed in five years.
“It is now corruption-free, development oriented and transparent government,” Nadda said.
Contrary to back-patting, non-Jat Khattar’s challenges lie in three Muslim-dominated seats in southern state and at least 40 Jat-dominated seats mainly of Rohtak, Sonipat, Bhiwani and Hisar — the epicenter of weeklong Jat reservation violence in February 2016 that led to the death of at least 30 people and damage to properties thousands of crores.
The Jats, a land-owning politically influential community that constitutes 28 per cent of the state’s population, is blaming the BJP government for not defending their demand for 10 per cent quota in jobs strongly in the Supreme Court that set aside that provision.
Political observers believe unemployment, deteriorating law and order, mounting debt and poor remunerative crop prices are major roadblocks in Khattar’s smooth sail for his second stint.
Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav said state’s total liabilities were Rs 76,263 crore in 2013-14. At that time the BJP government promised to free the state of this debt.
“Now the liabilities stood at Rs 179,744 crore,” he mocked.
Quoting a report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy for May to August, Yadav said the number of unemployed in the state has crossed 20 lakh, adding out of these 4.5 lakh are either graduate or have a higher degree.
Hooda describes Khattar’s dispensation as a ‘government of scams’, promoting ‘divisive politics’ and unemployment is at its peak in the country at around 28 per cent.
According to him, he is seeking votes on the basis of his 10-year stint (2004 to 2014) as the Chief Minister.
The state has burnt thrice under the helm of Khattar, state Congress president Kumari Selja said in an apparent reference to the violence during incidents related to self-styled godmen – Rampal and Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and Jat agitation.
She said the crime rate was 36 per cent and there was a substantial increase in rape cases.
As per the poll share in the Lok Sabha elections held in April-May, the BJP, which won all the 10 seats in the state, got the lead in 79 Assembly seats, the Congress in 10 and the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) in one seat.
The BJP, which had won 47 seats in the last elections to the 90-member Assembly and formed the government in the state for the first time, is targeting 75-plus seats in the October 21 elections.
In an obvious reference to the faction-ridden Congress and the mass exodus of leaders from the jailed Om Prakash Chautala-led INLD, Khattar said on the basis of development, the BJP would fulfil its resolution of winning 75 plus-seats.
The October 24 counting of ballots will decide the fate of Khattar, who put stakes more on non-Jat candidates in the agrarian state.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])