Lok Sabha elections 2019: On toes, Khattar toils to clear first political test as Haryana chief minister
Khattar quickly meets workers one by one and in between steals a few minutes for other chores such as body wash or trimming moustache.Updated: May 04, 2019, 10:28 IST
It is an early Tuesday morning. Even the Sun is about to emerge on the horizon. But the BJP workers are swarming around the ground floor ‘Sarswati Suit’ of Kurukshetra University (KU) International hostel reserved for Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
The party activists have already occupied every available space in the corridor, sitting room and its adjoining bed room opposite CM’s room. Some visitors are carrying files. A few are holding flower buds. And a handful of smartly dressed hangers-on stand out in this crowd for wearing thicker-than-the-thumb ‘gold chains’ over shirt. All of them are eagerly waiting to get an audience from Khattar who was awake till 2 am, brainstorming with his core team for the May 12 summer slugfest.
Finally, and much before the boredom could set in, Hardeep, an aide of Khattar, walks in and starts inviting visitors to meet CM, who in tracksuit looks athletic. The crowd is growing. Khattar quickly meets workers one by one and in between steals a few minutes for other chores such as body wash or trimming moustache. Meanwhile, Kurukshetra candidate Nayab Saini, minister of state for labour and employment arrives followed by Krishan Kumar, minister of state for social justice and employment. The duo takes turns to update Khattar about the “impact” of back-to-back public meetings the CM held on Monday evening at Rajond, Pundri, Pehwa and Thanesar.
It is now 8.30am and Khattar loudly enquires from his aides, “If someone from HT has arrived?” After exchanging pleasantries, Khattar fires an unexpected shot: “What is your background Sharmaji? ABVP, NSUI or comrade...? Rajiv Jain (CM’s media advisor) had informed me that you are coming.”
Then he fires a volley of queries to know about the political scene in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. “Capt Amarinder Singh doesn’t want Rahul Gandhi to address election rally in Punjab…,” he says. Asked about number of seats BJP will win in Haryana, he says: “Even the bookies are bullish on BJP in Haryana. They are giving at least nine seats to us. You know satta bazaar is often correct…”
Meanwhile, Dharamvir Mirzapur, Kurukshetra district chief of the BJP, walks in to inform CM that workers have arrived at the party office, while Nayab Saini updates Khattar about the arrangements at Ladwa for the rally.
Of the total nine assembly segments in Kurukshetra Lok Sabha seat, BJP has five MLAs. There are over three lakh Jat voters, about 1.25 lakh are Brahmins, nearly 1 lakh Sainis and as many from Ror community, the descendants of Maratha soldiers who had fought in the historic third battle of Panipat.
Outside the party office of Kurukshetra Lok Sabha seat in an upscale market, the party workers, wearing Gandhi caps with the slogan ‘Fir ek baar, Modi sarkar’ printed on them, have lined up in big numbers. There is loud cheering as Khattar arrives in a Toyota Fortuner. Subhash Sudha, MLA Thanesar, asks workers to inform voters about impeccable credentials of Khattar, Nayab Saini tells them to fan across the constituency and work like “Modiji.” And Khattar enquires about the duties assigned to the party activists and how they should fulfil the task.
“You are like foundation stones of a huge building. Your task is the most important. The (political) atmosphere is favourable. On the voting day facilitate the voters,” he says. The meeting is over after shaking hands and numerous sessions of selfie.
It is bit early to reach Ladwa. Mirzapur checks about crowd in Ladwa. “When should we start from here,” he asks over phone even as Khattar settles down in the vehicle. “We are early,” Khattar says and decides to ‘kill’ sometime at Parakeet Tourist complex, Pipli.
Abhimanyu, who has been with Khattar for the past over two decades, is on the front seat and informs others over phone to reach Parakeet for tea. Khattar says his government has restored the faith of the youth and the public by pursuing “no favouritism, no discrimination, no nepotism and equal development” policy.
A cup of tea and chitchat later, CM asks, ”Aa gaya phone udhar se. Chalen Abhimanyu.”
The cavalcade arrives at Ladwa grain market. There is loud cheering as Khattar takes the stage. He appears okay with the presence of the public and begins his address by shouting “Bharat Mata ki,” and the crowd roars “jai.” But he isn’t impressed. “Your shout has not even reached Kurukshetra,” he complains and repeats the slogan and is satisfied with the response.
His 35-minute speech revolves around what he says “people have made up their mind to make Modi PM again,” and that when Congress party leaders don’t have faith in Rahul Gandhi how can people believe in him. “Why Modi?” he asks and himself answers “because he has solved complex problems of India...terrorism will be wiped out.”
The Congress, he tells the gathering, is encouraging the ‘tukde-tukde gang’ by promising to amend the sedition law. “For us nation is a mother,” he says, “and for Congress it is a mere piece of land.” The crowd roars at the mention of surgical strikes and the cross-border air strike.
As transparency in recruitment is being hailed uniformally across the state, Khattar asks: “Koi parchi-paisa laga naukri lene main? The crowd shouts: “Nahin Laga.” And before winding up, he screams, “Mayi baara (May 12)” and the party workers respond “BJP dubaraa.” “Teyees mayi (23 May),” Khattar says and crowd replies “Congress gai.”
The shouts and claps get louder.
Rally over and Khattar is off to another public meeting at Barada in Ambala Lok Sabha seat where sitting MP Rattan Lal Kataria is seeking re-election. He settles down on the front seat. People surround the vehicle. Some want to shake his hand, elderly bless and party workers greet the CM, who again gives instructions to party workers. Somehow the vehicle moves. “Inform...that we have left…,” Khattar asks Abhimanyu.
At Barada grain market the crowd is impressive and the tone, tenor and theme of Khattar’s 30-minute speech is the same what he said earlier at Ladwa. After the rally he takes a round of the market and walks up to people before getting into another huddle with workers inside the rest house.
There is yet another meeting at dusk after which he dashes off to Chandigarh by road from where he has to go to Rohtak for an important meeting with senior central leaders.
Now Khattar is in a hurry.