BY VISHAL GULATI
Chandigarh, Sep 27 (IANS) Abolition of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir versus unemployment and deteriorating law and order in Haryana will the main theme of issues when the two arch rivals — the ruling BJP and the Congress — fight it out in the upcoming Assembly polls slated on October 21.
The BJP, which is aiming to retain its government for the second consecutive term, is raking up, among others, the issue of country’s national security and scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
Contrary to this, Leader of Opposition and two-time Congress Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who had openly defied his party line by supporting decision to abrogate Article 370, is seeking votes on state’s issues like corruption, unemployment and law and order deterioration.
“Under the BJP rule, the state was burnt thrice. Nearly 80 lives have been lost. Who is responsible for these riots? Everyone knows this,” Hooda, the de facto chief ministerial candidate of Congress, told IANS.
He said the farmers in the state are in distress. They have not got the MSP (minimum support price) of their produce. Unemployment is an all-time high. So is the government employees, who are discontented.
For Hooda, who himself is facing a slew of CBI and the Enforcement Directorate cases in land acquisition and plot allotment in two consecutive terms from 2004 to 2014, the elections would witness a straight contest between the Congress and the BJP.
“Parliament elections are fought on national issues. In the assembly polls, it is the local issues that matter. The Khattar government has to give the reply to the public that why it has failed to deliver its poll promises made in 2014,” Hooda asked.
For the BJP, the larger narrative is about showcasing the work done its central government. It is banking more on the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held three election meeting in the run-up to these elections.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who is playing up the issue of Article 370 and national security, said the unemployment issue was being blown out of proportion by the opposition.
Presenting his government’s report card to the media in Chandigarh this week, he admitted there was a percentage of unemployed people who are undermatric or undergraduate but it was not more than what the opposition was claiming.
He said the state economy was in a much higher position than the country and the best in the region.
“While the GDP for 2018-19 was 6.8 per cent in the country, in Haryana it was 8.2 per cent. If we take agriculture growth for this period, in country it was 2.9 per cent whereas in the state it was 5.5 per cent. So was industry growth rate, which was was 6.9 per cent in the country, in Haryana it was 8.6 per cent,” a confident Khattar said.
The Chief Minister promises to set up an independent ‘manav sampada mantralaya’ (Human Resource Management Ministry), first time in the country, on returning to power. This ministry would be set up for optimum utilisation of human resources.
Political observers say the Hooda government in its two stints was mired in corruption cases. Contrary to it, the Khattar government has not faced any major allegation of financial wrongdoing.
A section of voters says the BJP is the preferred choice in the state owing to the Modi face.
“Most of the promises made by the BJP in the 2014 assembly elections fulfilled or not is not an issue. At least, there is no major allegation of corruption against Khattar and his ministers. Secondly, with the BJP government at the helm in the Centre, the state government will get the maximum benefit if we have a BJP government in the state too,” said Jai Bhagwan Singla, who runs a store in Karnal.
Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav said unemployment would be the biggest poll issue in Haryana.
Quoting a report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy for May to August, he 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.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at [email protected])