Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda looks a rather relaxed man these days. Dethroned after ruling the state for almost a decade in two successive terms, the Rohtak strongman seems to be enjoying his new role as an opposition leader. He was unusually carefree and nonchalant during a conversation with Chief of Bureau Hitender Rao on Friday.
How do you rate the performance of the BJP government in Haryana?
It is too early to draw a conclusion. However, early indications clearly show their inexperience and haste. Instead of owning up the responsibility, the new government seems to be having the tendency of passing the blame to the previous regime. Their own mismanagement created a paucity of urea fertiliser for farmers and triggered protests across the state. But they were quick to put the blame on us. The handling of the urea issue clearly showed their inexperience. I mean it is unheard of that fertiliser is distributed in police station compounds.
The new government has blamed you for leaving the state in financial mess. In fact, they are preparing a white paper on the fiscal situation.
They have been caught in their own web. On one hand, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said (at Ahmedabad) that the economic situation of the state was strong and on the other they complain of poor financial position. The fiscal and revenue deficit of the state during the Congress rule was well within the norms set by the central government. As far as tabling a white paper on the fiscal situation is concerned then it should also have a comparison with other states. The white paper should not be prepared in isolation. When I left the reins of the state, Haryana was number one in per capita income as well as per capita investment.
How do you react to the BJP government’s decision to review several of your decisions?
That’s OK. I welcomed their statement that those decisions which were in public interest will not be reversed. But look what they are doing. They have reduced the social security pension amount to Rs 1200 per month as against Rs 1500 per month committed by my government. In fact, they have hoodwinked the public since the BJP poll manifesto promised Rs 2000 per month amount for social security pensions. Then the decision to decrease the age of government employees from 60 to 58 and non-implementation of pay scales on Punjab pattern were also not in public interest. Even the BJP government in Rajasthan has increased the retirement age to 60.
The BJP regime often rakes up the Vadra-DLF deal, promising to hold a probe in the matter. Your comments?
They are most welcome to hold a fair and just probe. I have said in the assembly also that my government did not allot a single inch of land to any private builder. In a private transaction, the responsibility of the government is to ensure that stipulated revenue -- stamp duty, license fee etc -- is garnered, which was duly paid by these companies. Since the man (Robert Vadra) is related to a political family, the issue is raked time and again by vested interests.
Looking back at the 2014 assembly polls, what went wrong for the Congress?
Well, we were not the only ones to suffer in isolation. There was a countrywide wave in favour of Narendra Modi which affected Haryana also. But remember we have done fairly well by winning 15 seats after ruling the state for close to a decade. No other party in power had achieved this kind of success while losing an assembly election in Haryana. It is a matter of record.