Congress & INLD sharpen knives. Is this beginning of the end of BJP in Haryana?
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is on the back foot in Haryana and its arch rivals Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) have started turning on the heat, aiming for the 2019 Lok Sabha and subsequent state Assembly polls.
Both the political parties are attacking the Manohar Lal Khattar regime while racing to outdo each other through outreach programmes.
Congress attacks Khattar
Leaders of the Grand Old Party are carrying out programmes one after the other. However they are a divided house. Various claimants are competing agaist each other in attacking the Khattar government.
Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and the current state unit President Ashok Tanwar have been carrying out outreach programmes over the last few months. Also making public forays are Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhry, All India Congress Committee (AICC) Chief Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, Rajya Sabha member and former Union minister Kumari Selja and Kuldeep Bishnoi, who merged his Haryana Janhit Congress with the party last year.
With Hooda going ahead with his Kisan Mazdoor Panchayats, his close aide and former Haryana Congress president Phool Chand Mullana along with other close associates have decided to reach out to Dalits through Dalit Panchayats. The first of these Panchayats is scheduled to be held in Ambala on October 8 which will be followed by similar Panchayats in Hisar, Gurugram and Rohtak on October 29, November 12 and November 26 respectively.
Party leader Uday Bhan told Catch, “Dalits comprise around 20 per cent of Haryana's population. But their landholding does not go beyond one per cent. They are living in pathetic conditions and in abject poverty.”
Mullana said that the purpose of these Dalit Panchayats is to reach out to the community and chalk out protests against Khattar government for withdrawing Dalit welfare programmes launched during the Hooda regime. The atrocities against Dalits in Haryana continue to make headlines at regular intervals.
Congress leaders allege that the Khattar regime has done away with the Mahatma Gandhi Gramin Basti Yojana started by the Hooda government in 2008 under which 100 yard plots were being distributed to Dalits along with Rs 91,000 for building a house. They say that four lakh such plots had been distributed.
Mullana said, “The Khattar government also did away with the Scheduled Caste Commission constituted by the Hooda government. Even the programmes of giving scholarships to Dalits are not being implemented properly in the state.”
The Congress leaders also accuse the BJP government in the state of stopping the Indira Gandhi Payjal Yojana under which eight lakh families were given 200 litre water tanks with taps to be installed at their houses.
During the Dalit Panchayats, the Congress leaders plan to raise issues like constitution of a Sanitation Workers' Commission, regularisation of jobs of sanitation workers, increasing their minimum wages to Rs 15,000 and payment of Rs 20 lakh as compensation in the event of a sanitation worker dying on duty. The other issues they will be raising include a demand for a fresh survey to identify Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in the state, providing Smart Card to BPL families for treatment in hospitals and clearing of backlog of jobs reserved for scheduled castes.
INLD on the offensive
The INLD on the other hand has also started pressing on the accelerator of its attacks on the government. It's leadership will be announcing its programme for the days to come at Bhiwani on September 25 as it celebrates the birth anniversary of its patriarch and former deputy prime minister Chaudhary Devi Lal.
Leader of Opposition in the Haryana Assembly and senior INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala said that the party will be launching a multi pronged attack on the Khattar government on various issues. This includes approaching the Lokayukta, raising the issues in the state Assembly, approaching the centre on issues like fuel price hike and also going to the people.
One of the main issues which the INLD has been playing up is the demand for a probe by an external agency into the paddy scam of 2015 pertaining to procurement of variety PB 1509.
Referring to the ongoing procurement of Bajra in the state, Chautala said, “With the government delaying procurement by its agencies at a Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 1425 per quintal, farmers are being compelled to sell their produce at Rs 1100 to private players. This procurement is being done by the hoarders in connivance with the state government.”
The INLD has also started targeting the Khattar government on the deteriorating law and order situation. “Every day we see three murders and three rapes being reported. The cases of extortion are rampant. The menace of drugs has also started knocking at the doors of the state. Even in my own constituency of Ellenebad people have been approaching me about youngsters, including girls, taking to smack,” he said.
Chautala also accused the Khattar government of promoting corruption and alleged that BJP functionaries are making money through corrupt means. “The government is now busy refurbishing alleys in the villages even where there is no need to do so. In the process, tiles costing Rs 7 in the market are being procured at almost double the price. Same is the case with the benches being installed in villages. These benches, which cost around Rs 1900 to Rs 2200, are being procured at Rs 4900 to Rs 5300. The same has been the case in giving clearance for mining. The old saying of 'Andha peesse, kutta khaye' (a blind man grinds the grain, but a dog comes and eats it) stands true in Haryana today,” he said.
Both INLD and Congress smell a chance of returning to power in 2019 and hence they have got down to making preparations. The Khattar government and BJP having dug themselves into a hole over the recent violence in Panchkula following the conviction of Gurmeet Ram Rahim who had openly supported the BJP in the 2014 polls.