Quintessentially traditional with her head covered with the arch of her simple sari, a mother of nine, Matric pass and yet the richest woman of the country, Haryana’s urban local bodies minister Savitri Jindal (64) has to struggle hard for her victory in the upcoming assembly elections.
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With just eight months in the ministry, her political future will be decided more on the basis of her performance as MLA from Hisar.
Chairperson of Jindal Group, she says that she doesn’t take business decisions. “Though I do attend the board meetings,” she said. The ‘steel queen’ courted controversy when the Punjab and Haryana high court ordered her to pay a penalty of over Rs. 89 lakh for occupying government accommodation in an unauthorised manner.
After the death of her husband OP Jindal, she contested elections from Hisar in June 2005 and won by a margin of over 1-lakh votes, riding on a sympathy wave. “Political life is my family life. I am able to help people,” she said.
In the 2009 assembly polls, she got over 42% votes and won by a margin of nearly 15,000 votes. The Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) came third, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) was fourth, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stood fifth. But this time, she was made the minister only a year before the elections.
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In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress was third in her constituency with just over 5,000 votes in its kitty, whereas HJC’s Kuldeep Bishnoi bagged over 67,000 votes and INLD’s Dushyant Chautala 24,000 votes.
With anti-incumbency factor, allegations of regional bias in development works, favouritism to Jats and recruitment scams to counter, the task is cut out for Jindal in the upcoming assembly elections.
She is counting on her family legacy. “Except Jindal family there hasn’t been any true caretaker of the city and I am proud of my family,” she said.
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“I was also surprised at the results (of the Lok Sabha polls). I asked people why they did not vote for the Congress. It seemed to be a personality driven election… I can’t say (whether party positions will remain same in the assembly elections),” she explained.
Counting her development works, she said, “For Hisar, we have got shifted high tension wires in colonies, construction of storm water drains, laying of sewerage and water pipelines and setting up of veterinary university. An Astroturf worth `8 crore has also come up,” she added.
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On allegations of regional bias in development, she said, “Rohtak (the chief minister’s home district) is also part of Haryana. It is but natural that leaders focus on their home constituencies. I, too, focus on Hisar. The CM has been cooperative. All my works have been completed.”
On the issue of consolidation of non-Jat votes, she said, “The BJP knows that Jat votes would either go to the Cong or INLD, so they are trying to consolidate non-Jat votes. But among them SCs and Valmikis have always voted for the Congress.”
Will enter fray with bouquet of development works’
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About 875 colonies have been regularised, allowances of councillors have been increased, services of sweepers have been regularised and property tax has been reduced.
Something you wanted to do as minister but couldn’t?
Dabra ROB double-laning awaits completion in Hisar. I tried my level best but am yet to realise the dream even after getting sanctioned nearly Rs. 40 crore from the exchequer. The railway authorities are still unmoved under the garb of design put forward by PWD (B&R). Another project is the shifting of bus stand and it is hanging fire despite my best efforts.
Would you like to contest again, and why should people re-elect you?
I will contest the election again and will enter the fray with a bouquet of development works I have done for Hisar, my place of performance.
Assembly constituency HISAR
Assets (2009) Rs. 17.73 crore (movable)
Rs. 25.94 crore (immovable)
CAREER GRAPH: She came to politics after her husband OP Jindal died in a helicopter crash in 2005. She won the byelection in 2005 and was elected for the second time in 2009.
PORTFOLIOS HELD IN 5 YEARS: Has been taking care of urban local bodies ministry for the last eight months (from October 29, 2013). Earlier, she was minister of state in revenue and disaster management, consolidation, rehabilitation and housing and was also handling the urban local bodies ministry.
CONTROVERSIES: Jindal was directed by the Punjab and Haryana high court to vacate her government accommodation, which she had been occupying in an unauthorised manner. She has been occupying a ministerial bungalow in Chandigarh’s upscale Sector 7, though she ceased to be a minister in 2009. The court said eviction proceedings will be started if she did not vacate the house. She was asked to pay `89.29 lakh for occupying the house.
PERFORMANCE IN THE HOUSE: She has been articulate in answering questions regarding her ministry.
TOMORROW: Paramvir Singh, Agriculture minister