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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

Haryana BJP’s poster boy Manohar Lal Khattar leads poll charge from front

Manohar Lal Khattar who is on whirlwind poll tour of the state flies across Haryana covering 6-8 assembly constituencies every day ahead of Haryana assembly elections.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 15, 2019 15:12 IST
Hitender Rao
Hitender Rao
Hindustan Times, Baroda (Sonepat)
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar during his poll campaign in Sonepat district.
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar during his poll campaign in Sonepat district.(HT Photo)
         

He is on an all time high. Manohar Lal Khattar (65) is not only the primus inter pares (a first among the equals) by virtue of being the chief minister of Haryana, the once RSS pracharak has probably surpassed the description to become the face of the ruling BJP in the state. And it is apparent with the poise with which first time lawmaker carries BJP’s assembly election campaign across the state.

“There was a time when I was labeled as anari (a rookie). But the same people now says that I am rajneeti ka khiladi (an adept politician),’’ Khattar tells a gathering moments after his Agusta chopper touched down at Baroda village in Sonepat.

Before he arrived at Baroda, about 45 minutes late, from Tosham in Bhiwani, senior party leaders like former Union Minister, Birender Singh and Sonepat MP, Ramesh Kaushik regaled the audience. Party candidate from Baroda, Yogeshwar Dutt, an Olympic medal winning grappler, also waits for the chief minister and looks uncomfortable when asked to pose by the shutterbugs.

The CM who is on whirlwind poll tour of the state flies across the state covering 6-8 assembly constituencies every day. His throat remains sore and a hot water gargle every night keeps him going.

“I normally eat when I am airborne,’’ says Khattar as he settles down in an armored Toyota Fortuner SUV. His vehicle is flanked by several security vehicles and an electronic pulse jammer vehicle (one that stops remote controls from being operated in its vicinity, hence prevent a detonation). He refuses to get garlanded or offered a mace as planned by the organizers at Baroda.

“There was a time when elected representatives not only filled up their coffers but also minted money for their relatives. Hamko kya karna hai uska. Modiji ne kiska ghar bharna hai. Yogi Adityanath ne kiska ghar bharna hai. Yehi haal Manohar Lal ka hai. Mujhe to agar kisi ka ghar bharna hai to mere in 2.5 crore ke pariwar ka,’’ he says to a thunderous applause at Titu dharamshala in Gohana’.

He then attacks the opposition parties for promising freebies to lure the voters and emphasizes on rather making people skilled and self reliant.

Considering cut on freebies, subsidies?

The CM says, “The question is not whether we will reduce or stop but whether we will increase it. Also in what manner we give is important. We introduced the Mukhya Mantri Kisan Nidhi Samman Scheme which is modeled on a central scheme. We have promised an annual remuneration of ₹6,000 to farmers. But ours has categorizations and riders as it is a kind of a social support scheme. A similar scheme has also been introduced for the unorganized sector.”

He profusely speaks about the prevalent narrative across the country. “Rekindling the spirit of nationalism, abrogating Article 370, teaching Pakistan a lesson, eradication of militancy in Kashmir, strong ties with the United States. So who did all this?,’’ Khattar asks the crowd. The reply is no-brainer.

A depleted oppn is not a good sight

Is the BJP’s slogan of ‘abki baar 75 paar’ (this time we will cross 75 seats) a realistic assessment? “We never manufacture poll slogans. It is a realistic estimation. And there are reasons behind it. We won the mayoral elections, our victory in Jind bypoll was a watershed, and winning all 10 Lok Sabha seats by huge margins was the icing on cake. Our vote share in the parliamentary elections was 58 % which is a remarkable achievement,’’ he says. But will such a brute majority be in the interest of democracy? “I agree with you. A depleted opposition is not a good sight. See, as chief minister, I would want the BJP to get maximum number of seats. But we still have left 15 seats for the opposition. And we will be all ears to good suggestions. I believe in Sant Kabir’s couplet ‘nindak niyare rakhiye’ (keep your critics close-by).”

En-route Panipat, he tells his personal assistant to ask the security personnel in the pilot vehicle about a stopover. Moments later, the pilot car responds to tell that the next stopover can only be after 40 kilometres at Panipat. The CM however insists on a short break at Israna to freshen up. The caretaker of the rest house, taken by surprise, brings a glass of water for the CM and greets him. “What a great moment for me,” the caretaker says.

Eradicating graft remains priority

So what will be his priority areas if the BJP comes to power again? “Purging corruption will continue to be my top priority. And it entails not only punitive measures but also educating the masses, using persuasion, reducing human interface by introducing technology. Then three sectors – social security, health and education — need a lot of focus. We would also take big initiatives in making people self reliant,’’ the chief minister says.

Jats versus non-Jats

After a short break, the CM boards the SUV again. How much is the Jat versus non-Jat division relevant in elections? “I would not say that it is not there but certainly there has been a decline in caste-based division. I do not endorse caste-based politics. Our belief - Haryana Ek- Haryanavi Ek – is firmly entrenched in our functioning. Yes it’s a big shortcoming of our system and we need to correct it,” he says before climbing the dais for day’s last poll rally at Panipat.