Destruction of public property and disrupting train services cannot be allowed in the name of agitation. The political parties behind such agitation must be derecognised and people must be sent behind the bars for such acts. Such activities are not acceptable and it promotes lawlessness.” This is what the Supreme Court said about the agitation to demand reservation for Jats last month.
The order galvanised the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)-led government in UP into action. Jats who were stopping trains in western UP were turfed out from railway tracks. Although Chief Minister Mayawati had earlier said she supported the agitation, the administrative action in her state was exemplary.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Haryana. In a sense the consolidation of Jats began in Haryana. The result of that process found expression in UP later. Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s record on the management of his bureaucracy continues to remain a bit spotty. The way the Harayan government handled the agitation was a case in point.
Let us be under no illusions. Jats are the ruling class of Haryana. The state’s politics has been dominated either by this community or by a coalition of castes against this community. Hooda is also a Jat — a Stephanian, but a Jat nevertheless.
Hooda had a triple disadvantage. If he had been from some other community, he could have said the Jats don’t take him seriously on account of the fact that he doesn’t belong to their caste. But he does: and they still don’t take him seriously.
What makes it worse is that he is ringed with adversaries who are from the same caste. On one end of the spectrum are O P Chautala and his erudite sons. At the other end are Ranbir Singh Surjewala and Kiran Chaudhary, both challengers to Hooda from within the Congress. Of them Surejwala is by far the most powerful as he is both highly educated and a good orator (Hooda isn’t an orator at all).
And of course, there is the political performance issue. In 2005, when Hooda first became CM, he had a charmed life. With 67 seats in the 90-member assembly, every third MLA was a Congressman. If a minister stepped out of line, he could be told he would be sacked if he didn’t behave. Hooda, in fact, had a range of options he could exercise against errant MLAs — this included telling Sonia Gandhi to suspend or sack legislators. He was Gandhi’s blue-eyed boy and was showcased as a CM who was getting it right.
Today, he wears a hangdog look. With 45 MLAs, he’s just about been able to form a government. He is at the mercy of independents so that they don’t cross over to Chautala whose Indian National Lok Dal, with 31 MLAs, is snapping at his heels. He’s managed to break Kuldeep Singh Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress and get three MLAs to the Congress, otherwise the government would have been fighting for survival.
The Hooda favourites are no longer part of the government, so the critical ballast he needs as the leader of the team is missing. Venod Sharma, the controversial Congress leader from Chandigarh whose son Manu Sharma is serving a life sentence for the murder of Jessica Lall, is out of the government again. Hooda would have dearly loved to have him in. As one of the most influential and prosperous liquor barons of India, Sharma has stood by the chief minister through thick and thin. But Hooda was unable to include him in the team. Instead, there are nondescript ministers like Agriculture Minister Paramvir Singh (whose only claim to fame is that he’s the son of a senior Congress leader in Haryana). Industrialist Gopal Kanda has been given the state home and the sports portfolio.
Denied of political supporters, Hooda had to take resort to supporters from the bureaucracy. The CM’s cell has as many as eight people. Each one is a power centre. The Principal OSD to the chief minister was an undersecretary in the Union government who has now been brought to Harayana. He does the CM’s “oral kaam”. In the past, the chief secretary and the principal secretary to the chief minister used to be forces in counterbalance to one another. In Haryana today they have joined forces. Sisters and husbands appear to run the state and no one hears the CM complaining.
Quite the reverse. A year ago, in a village called Mirchpur, Hissar, a disabled dalit girl and her septuagenarian father were burnt alive. The village is Jat dominated. The SHO, a Jat, refused to register a case. Finally, when the court intervened in the matter, the state government had to take action.
Similarly, when Jats went on a rampage demanding reservation a few weeks ago, Hissar Superintendent of Police Subhash Yadav, ordered firing to prevent destruction of public property, leading to the death of one youth. Instead of punishing the rampaging Jats, the Hooda government suspended the SP, bringing the high court down on the government like a tonne of bricks.
While Hooda’s second in command, Finance and Irrigation Minister Captain Ajay Singh Yadav, openly voiced his concern over the handling of the case, others in the Cabinet made no secret of the fact that they were angry at the government’s “capitulation” to the Jats.
Hooda obviously believed two terms as chief minister is quite enough. He’s content to let things slide in Haryana. The result: corruption, inefficiency and injustice.