With the BJP in saddle in Haryana, the State which once prided over its multicultural identity and liberal accomplishments, is reeking of depravity especially on administrative front; it is not able to understand the modern ethos either acquired or looked for by its citizens, writes Harish Gupta
Haryana is unique in many ways. Its newness, being carved out of East Punjab as late as 1966, is set off by its rapid rise to the frontline of a bouquet of accomplishments. It is the second wealthiest State of the country, after Goa. It is most advanced agriculturally, with the largest number of rural Crorepatis. Haryana’s mix of high-end industry, like automobile and ancillaries, with the post-industrial chrome-and-glass modernity of Gurgaon, and its IT empires, is unparalleled by Indian standards.
Unfortunately, since the rise of the BJP to power in Haryana, the State is being pushed back into a time warp. In the span of just a few months, divisive politics is dealing a body blow to the State’s much-admired multicultural identity that had made it so unique in the country, if not in South Asia. What is even more worrisome is that the global reputation of India as a rising power -- which Prime Minister Narendra Modi values most -- depends greatly on the experience of visiting foreign experts who frequently visit Haryana, especially Gurgaon. It is obvious that the tales they are carrying home are dispiriting, to say the least.
State Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, an RSS insider, set the tone of his rule by following in the footsteps of Maharashtra by criminalising consumption of beef, regardless of the cosmopolitan nature of the State and its IT showpieces. Though it had no significant backlash, it underlined the apathy of the State Government to grasp the changing attitudes of its citizens. But what really brought in backlash was the BJP’s pre-poll promise that it would give OBC status (and reservation) to the State’s Jats. The Jat community comprises 25 percent of the State’s population, making it just too large to be accommodated in the reservation basket without dislodging many other groups. Besides, whatever be the community’s grouse (like agriculture taking a backseat in the economy), it is certainly not a smart idea to earmark a State’s largest population group as “backward”.
Before election, Jat support shifted from the Congress to the BJP as the former had failed to give them reservation in jobs. But the BJP too had to back out of its promise till Jats recoiled with an unprecedented severity. In February, they took to the streets along the stretch of GT Road from Gurgaon to Panipat and Sonepat. Vehicles were torched, roads closed, police stations attacked and dozens of protesters killed in police firings. But what is more upsetting is the reported gang-rape of many women at Murthal. The molested women included an NRI from Australia who was captured by the protesters on her way to IGI airport. It was days after her ordeal in the dark that she posted her experience. The gang rape shocked the nation as such a thing was never heard of even during earlier riots in Delhi, Haryana and elsewhere.
Throughout the pandemonium, the Khattar administration did little to control the situation. It tried to brush aside the gang-rape report but, as evidence began raining, added it to the original FIR. However, the Government’s worse goof-up was the bill it introduced in the Assembly to placate the Jats. The community being divided among three religions -- Hindu, Muslim and Sikh -- the bill assigned reservation quota to the community by religion. That gives every reason for the apex court to throw it out of the window, since religion-based reservation is unconstitutional. The apex court had rejected reservation of Jats during the UPA regime too.
The BJP is perhaps fully aware of the possibility and is gambling on an opportunity to pass the buck. But its strategy of winning communities by promising reservation is a poor imitation of the ‘Mandal-Kamandal’ politics of the 1990’s. The only exception being that, unlike in the past when such movements brought anarchy mainly to northern India, now it is rocking some of the most successful states, notably Gujarat. The ‘Patidar’ movement in Gujarat, began last year, has close similarity to the Jat agitation in the Delhi-Haryana belt. Both involve invented identities. Patidars (Patel) comprise 15 percent of Gujarat’s population. While they have been the backbone of the BJP’s strength, it was inevitable that they’d ask for its price one day. As with Jats, Patidars have demanded reservation in everything, particularly for admission to medical and engineering colleges. In Gujarat, a technical degree is seen as a passport to America. The BJP Government in Gandhinagar dealt with the Patel agitation in a manner as ham-handed as in Haryana, detaining many agitation leaders, including Hardik Patel, the chief organiser, on an irrationally imposed sedition charge. But, far from being scotched, the agitation is about to re-erupt.
In 2014, Modi rode the crest of a popular expectation of change, but global economy had long since become sluggish, India being no exception. The vast multitudes of ordinary people, including Jats and Patels, who were swept away by the ‘Modi wave’ two years ago, are now feeling ripped off and seeking refuge in an over-stretched reservation system. In desperation, the party is latching on to utterly senseless voyages to mythology, which it loves to project as history. Gurgaon, despite its ‘Millennium city’ nick-name, has pathetic infrastructure and poor public health or education system. The Government’s answer to it is comic. It has renamed Gurgaon as ‘Gurugram’ on the belief that it was the home of Dronacharya, the archery teacher of the Kuru princes in the Mahabharata. The ancient sage hardly matches up to the taste of a generation of techies familiar with a more contemporary drone.
-- The writer is Editor Lokmat group