Despite a strong anti-incumbency wave against the Congress in Haryana, education minister Geeta Bhukkal, who originally hails from Mathanhail village of this district, is among a few party MLAs who are hopeful of doing an encore in the tough assembly elections ahead as she is banking on her closeness to chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
A lawyer by profession, Bhukkal (46), who also holds portfolios of social justice and women empowerment, owes everything to Hooda who gave her space in Jhajjar, a constituency under his influence, when her previous constituency Kalayat (Kaithal) was opened for general category from reserved after delimitation in 2009.
Handing over a list of achievements during a visit by this correspondent to Jhajjar, Bhukkal claimed, “Under the able guidance of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the state has witnessed large-scale growth in infrastructure in schools and colleges and it is for the first time that Jhajjar, a backward district, has been represented by an educated MLA.”
However, residents of Jhajjar are still struggling for potable water, sewerage and drainage system. Potholed roads across the town are sufficient proof that as how it has lagged on development front as compared with adjacent constituency Rohtak.
Denying that there was a step-motherly treatment to her constituency and playing second fiddle to Hooda, Bhukkal, however, said 36 castes in Jhajjar have their own community centres. “Jhajjar now has several new ITIs and a DIET centre. Besides several amusement parks have been developed solely for providing better education and health facilities to people,” she added.
Besides holding portfolio of education, Bhukkal also handles various other state departments, but she hardly misses any weekend, especially Sunday, to meet public in her constituency and redresses their grievances with her gentle manner and giving them a patient hearing.
She ensures that she does not miss any single event organised in her constituency in which chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda or his son and Rohtak MP Deepender Singh Hooda visit to announce or inaugurate any welfare project. “I tie Rakhi to CM sahab every year on Raksha Bandhan, so I also share family relations with him,” she confided.
Admitting that the education department was yet to provide quality education in government-run institutions, Bhukkal said initially creating infrastructure was their priority and now they would focus on quality education.
However, one could see how people got assurances from Bhukkal at her Jhajjar residence as they came to seek favourable transfers from government schools — due to lack of uniform transfer and posting policy in state — during the 40 minutes that the HT team waited to meet her for this interview.
TOMORROW: SATPAL SANGWAN, CO-OPERATION AND HOUSING MINISTER