Chandigarh stalking case: A body blow to image of CM Khattar and Haryana BJP

The incident has cast a shadow on Amit Shah’s push to galvanise the state party cadre for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

analysis Updated: Aug 09, 2017 09:34 IST
Pawan Sharma
Pawan Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Haryana BJP,Subhash Barala,Chandigarh Stalking case
BJP National President, Amit Shah with Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar at a meeting of Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya Karya Vistar Yojana in Rohtak on August 4, 2017.(PTI)

The midnight stalking episode involving the son of Haryana BJP president Subhash Barala has come as a body blow to the image of the state party unit and chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar at a time when they had gone on a publicity blitzkrieg on completing 1,000 days of what they called “successful governance”.

Also, the nationwide outrage that has followed is a huge embarrassment to the party’s image-building projects such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao.

The BJP found itself on the back foot overnight after Barala’s son Vikas Barala (23) accompanied by his friend Ashish Kumar (27) allegedly chased Varnika Kundu (29) a disc jockey, when she was driving back to her Panchkula home from Sector 9 in Chandigarh on the August 4 night. The victim is the daughter of Haryana-cadre IAS officer Virender Singh Kundu. The accused, who were drunk, were released on bail by Chandigarh police after a case of stalking, drunk driving and wrongful restraint was registered against them.

The incident, which came a day after BJP national chief Amit Shah completed his three-day visit to Haryana, has cast a shadow on Shah’s push to galvanise the state party cadre for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

While camping in Rohtak, Haryana’s political nerve centre, Shah had injected fresh energy and ideas into the state leadership. The party had planned a series of programmes to mobilise the cadre and propagate the party’s achievements. All these plans have been put on hold and the party is desperately trying to duck or deflect the blow.

By announcing that the party will fight the 2019 assembly election under the command of Khattar, Shah had also used his Rohtak visit to send a clear message to the party rank and file. This had not only strengthened Khattar but also Barala, a staunch Khattar loyalist. Now, the outrage threatens to hit the otherwise clean image of Khattar who has been backing Barala. The anti-Khattar lobby has begun raising its hood again.

Khattar’s statement that the father couldn’t be punished for his son’s misdemeanour also exposed the caste fault lines in the party. Two non-Jat MPs and known Khattar baiters, Rajkumar Saini (Kurukshetra) and Ashwani Kumar (Karnal) have publicly demanded beleaguered Barala’s resignation.

With this, the anti-Khattar-Barala lobby has become active again. They argue that the BJP’s inaction against the state party chief and public shaming of the girl by a section of party leaders has dented the credibility of the party in the eyes of an angry public.

But the lofty ‘Raj Manohar, Kaam Hazaar’ campaign pales in front of gravity of the alleged incident as crimes against women continue to spiral in the state. Recovery of the BJP from the damage is the key challenge before Khattar.

First Published: Aug 09, 2017 00:06 IST