Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar has been crisscrossing the country to tout his state as an “ideal and peaceful” investment destination, but the ongoing state-wide threatens to derails his well-laid plans.
Promoting the state with the ‘Happening Haryana’ tagline, Khattar, whose first year in power was lacklustre, had finally started to show the first signs of being in control.
But when the Jats took to the streets to press their longstanding demand for reservation in jobs and education, the Khattar government failed to realise the gravity of its first major political challenge. The top brass, both administrative and political, first took time to react to a fast-developing situation and then responded in the now-familiar lumbering manner.
The agitation that started from Rohtak and some adjoining areas spread to the entire Jat heartland. The ruling party’s Jat leaders such as Birender Singh, Capt Abhimanyu and Om Prakash Dhankar, who never cloaked their political ambitions, either lay low or tried to punch above their weight and failed.
The offer to double the economically backward quota, which the agitators rejected instantly, too revealed that the CM’s camp lacked political rigour and manoeuvring talent. And the fact that there is no one clear leader in command of the violent stir has only added to the troubles of the government.
“The leadership cannot absolve itself of responsibility for the current situation. It is a prisoner of indecision and cannot escape the blame for doublespeak of its leaders on quota,” a political science teacher said requesting anonymity.
The result: The happenings of the week gone by are not just threatening to upset its plans to market Haryana as the most suitable investment destination, but also sharpened caste fault lines.
“The paradox...is that a microscopic minority has an economic edge whereas a large section, mostly marginal farmers, is facing pauperisation due to shrinking land holdings and constant failure of crops. And those who are agitating may not be beneficiaries of reservation, if and when it is granted,” said prof (retd) Ranbir Singh of Kurukshetra University.