The politics of Tau: Amit Shah makes preparatory poll visit to Haryana
The BJP has started making preparations for the 2019 Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections in Haryana. And first on the agenda is making roads into the Jat heartland where its rivals and traditional political powerhouses – the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) stand well entrenched.
It was in this connection that the BJP's national president Amit Shah stayed put for three days from 2 to 4 August in Rohtak, the nerve centre of Haryana politics and the home turf of former Congress CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Shah charted out the road map for the party functionaries for the 2019 polls and gave directions to them to expand the party base right up to the booth level.
Observers say that the BJP has been desperately trying to find a solution to its 'Jat dilemma' over the last few years since it started expanding base in the state. Though it managed to secure the required numbers to form the government in 2014, it failed to penetrate the Jat heartland in central Haryana. A vast majority of its seats were won either along the GT Road or on the southern fringe of the state.
It is also a known fact that the BJP does not enjoy the support of the Jat community which still remains aligned with the other two main political forces.
The developments related to the Jat agitation of 2016 that witnessed a large scale violence, arson and devastation of the social fabric marked by caste polarisation further weaned away the Jats from the party. The Jats stand pitted against the remaining 35 biradaris (communities).
But the party also knows that if it wants to expand its voter base while retaining political power in the state both on the Lok Sabha seats and in the subsequent Assembly polls, it will have to either consolidate the non-Jat voters or draw some support from the Jats so that it can win seats there.
Problems in that plan
“This is not an easy task. On one hand, they want to project a non-Jat like Manohar Lal Khattar as their chief ministerial face and on the other, they want votes from the Jats. They have plans of some high-profile events in the Jat heartland in the months to come. BJP plans to hold some rallies by the top leadership. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to visit the area to unveil the bust of the Jat icon Sir Chhotu Ram,” political analyst Balwant Takshak pointed out.
In his meeting with the BJP leaders, Shah stressed upon the need to launch an intensive door-to-door awareness campaign to make the people aware about various policies, of both the Centre and state government, being implemented for various sections of the society.
It was resolved that the party workers should reach out the public on the issues of effective redressal of people’s grievances through the chief minister's window, monitoring committees and also about the transparency in providing government jobs.
Keeping the same face
Having heard the leaders on their grievances regarding the functioning of the Khattar government, Shah made it clear that there is no plan to change guard in Haryana, and that the BJP would contest next assembly elections under Khattar's leadership.
“I have interacted with all BJP MLAs and they have unanimously agreed that the government is doing well under the leadership of the chief minister. Party workers also believe that development works undertaken in Haryana under his leadership were never taken up before by any previous government. The present government has completely changed the political culture in the state,” Shah said.
He disclosed that a plan has been prepared to strengthen every booth in the state, irrespective of caste considerations. Shah claimed that the BJP does not believe in caste politics.
On the tricky question of a loan waiver for the farmers, Shah put the onus on the state governments to take a call. He said the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has clarified that the decision regarding waiver of farm loans has to be taken by the respective state governments.
Rohtak was chosen as the venue for Shah's visit with a definite purpose. Besides being the nerve centre of Haryana politics, it is also Hooda's stronghold. The BJP also has its state headquarters there which needed to be brought into prominence.
Marked by issues
But Shah's visit was also marked by controversy and political protests by the Opposition. To begin with, the private schools in Rohtak had to declare a holiday because their buses were deployed for the rally organised to welcome the BJP president. This was the state government reportedly going against its own order on the ban imposed on using school buses for political rallies.
The students and parents were informed about the holiday on Tuesday night via text messages from the school managements.
The last day of his visit was marked by demonstrations by the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and INLD’s student wing Indian National Student Organisation (INSO). Their workers tried to show black flags to Shah and also clashed with the police at some places.
Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar pointed at the imposition of 'undeclared emergency' in Rohtak that was symbolised by the arrest of cattle rights activist Sant Gopal Das from near Shah’s camping site.
Das and ten others were reportedly arrested for dumping a carcass of a bull at the entrance of the camping site to protest against the BJP not fulfilling its promise of setting up conservation sanctuaries for bovines in the state.
The INSO members were detained when they tried to gate-crash into Tagore auditorium in the Maharishi Dayanand University to protest against some remarks made by Shah about former prime minister Chaudhary Devi Lal.
The AAP members also raised slogans asking Shah to go back while protesting against the BJP's anti people policies at the state and national level.
Shah's preparatory visit has set the ball rolling for pitched political battles which the state is expected to witness in the months to come.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen