Hindutva hotbed: RSS imprint on Khattar government runs deep in Haryana

Updated on Nov 07, 2016 01:18 PM IST

The all-powerful CMO is teeming with non-officials appointed as advisers and officers on special duty (OSDs). Most of them are associated with the Sangh Parivar, and enjoy unhindered access and clout. The chief minister seeks their counsel on regular basis.

Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar waves to crowd.(HT File Photo)
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar waves to crowd.(HT File Photo)
By, Chandigarh

When Manohar Lal Khattar, a one-time pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), became the chief minister of Haryana two years ago, his regime was expected to carry the parivar imprint.

But few had envisaged a government packed with men owing allegiance to RSS – the ideological mentor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – at all levels. Be it the chief minister’s office (CMO) and important positions in government institutions or organisations, the first-time chief minister has appointed persons having strong connections with RSS or affiliated saffron outfits.

The all-powerful CMO is teeming with non-officials appointed as advisers and officers on special duty (OSDs). Most of them are associated with the Sangh Parivar, and enjoy unhindered access and clout. The chief minister seeks their counsel on regular basis. “Whenever he is in Chandigarh, Khattar meets these trusted aides daily, first early in the morning and then before calling it a day,” said a top-ranking IAS officer.

Read | Haryana completes 50 years: Why the state’s success is self-limiting

While Capt Bhupinder Singh, OSD to chief minister, is the son of RSS prant sanghchalak Major Kartar Singh (retired), another OSD Raj Kumar Bhardwaj is a former journalist with long association with RSS. Khattar’s media adviser Amit Arya, a former television journalist, political aides Jagdish Chopra and Deepak Mangla and private assistant Abhimanyu also have RSS ties.

Agriculture minister OP Dhankar says it is a government of those associated with RSS. “The CM is from RSS. I am from there. People have given the mandate, knowing full well that we are from RSS. We are not going to appoint people belonging to Congress or Sewa Dal,” he told Hindustan Times.

Haryana agricultural minister OP Dhankar at Haryana Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh on November 04. (HT Photo)
Haryana agricultural minister OP Dhankar at Haryana Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh on November 04. (HT Photo)

RSS agenda top priority

But that’s not all. Several key appointments in government organisations have also been made with RSS blessings in line with its agenda – beef ban, cow conservation, Gita, search for the lost river Saraswati, saffronisation of education, etc. RSS ideologue Dinanath Batra, president of the Shiksa Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, was given an important role in formulation of education policy and development of books in the state just days after Khattar took charge while a one-time swayamsevak Jagbir Singh, was appointed chairman of Board of School Education, Haryana in April this year.

Another Sangh loyalist Bhani Ram Mangla heads the Gau Seva Aayog and most members of the commission have either held some position or participated in activities of RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal or related outfits. Another pracharak, Rishi Prakash Sharma has been appointed chairman of Haryana Livestock Development Board two months ago. He was vice-chairman of Gau Seva Aayog earlier.

A one-time Khattar aide said that the names of 200-odd trusted people were shortlisted in a meeting of RSS leaders about six months ago and given to the political brass of the state for appointment in different positions. “Don’t be surprised if there are more appointments in the coming months,” said the official with strong parivar connections.

Read | Haryana completes 50 years: Why the state’s success is self-limiting

There are also groups like Global Village Foundation, a think-tank of professionals set up by Balram Nandwani of RSS last year, that are active in the state, signing pacts with government organisations in areas education, training, skill upgradation etc. Besides Nandwani, some other GVF members – economist Mukul G Asher, Aniruddha Rajput and Bajrang Lal Bagra — have been given important roles by the state government. SP Gupta, director general, Haryana Institute of Public Administration (HIPA), said there is nothing unusual in such appointments.

“Whenever there is a change in government, every new CM appoints his own people. Those appointed by the government are highly qualified persons. People should object only if there is some doubt about their integrity or if such appointees lack experience or requisite qualifications,” said the retired IAS officer.

These appointments apart, IAS, IPS and other officers have been doing the rounds of parivar leaders for their blessings. “An RSS functionary had last year asked me to suggest the names of some retired officers for appointment in a government organisation. When I suggested the name of a retired bureaucrat, his only query was whether the officer has any Sangh leanings,” recalled a government official, requesting anonymity.

Rivals, officials see design

Though the BJP has been in power in Haryana in coalition with other parties in the past, this is the first time it has formed its own government. The RSS has never had it so good. And its imprint is getting deeper by the day, irking the state bureaucracy and the opposition parties. Congress spokesperson Ran Singh Maan said the Khattar government has become “hostage” to RSS.

“The appointments have been made at the instance of RSS and many of those appointed do not belong to the state or not know enough about it. As a result, governance is suffering,” he said.

But Haryana Housing Board chairman Jawahar Yadav, who often speaks on behalf of Khattar, dismissed the talk of RSS calling the shots, accusing the Congress of raking up non-issues to divert attention from its failures and bankruptcy of ideas. “We are all from RSS. Is it a crime to be associated with it? It is obvious that we will induct people with Sangh background and not those from the Congress,” he said.

While other opposition parties such as INLD and AAP are also critical of such appointments, the state bureaucracy also seems to be bearing the brunt of the political top brass’ dependence on “non-officials” and frequent transfers of officials. Over the past two years, the government has ordered over 200 transfers of IAS officers. Not surprisingly, the trust quotient between bureaucrats and the political bosses is not high.

Read | Now, Khattar govt chargesheets Khemka over unsold wheat seeds

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    A senior assistant editor, Navneet Sharma leads the Punjab bureau for Hindustan Times. He writes on politics, public affairs, civil services and the energy sector.

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