Pro-incumbency is strong so some negativity in pockets does not matter: Manohar Lal Khattar
Khattar says voters will support the BJP for its nationalist stand and for the development work the government has done in the state.
What is the main agenda on which the BJP is fighting the Lok Sabha polls in Haryana?
Some issues are permanent and some gain importance with time — for example, that of rashtravaad (nationalism). People say we talk more about this issue than others. Why did this issue become so important? The way the Congress tried to trivialise the Pulwama attacks, we were forced to raise the issue, especially after they made anti-national promises such as repealing of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and omitting Section 124A (that defines sedition) of the IPC. Even today, security is more important than any other issue, especially in Haryana where every family has or has had someone in the armed forces. Hence, this is big on our agenda. Apart from this issue, we will also highlight the development work done by the BJP government in the last five years.
Till 2014, Haryana politics revolved around the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). The BJP won seven of 10 seats in Haryana due to the Modi wave. What makes you think it will do better this time?
Look at the trend in the last four and a half years. We won in the civic body polls in Faridabad and Gurugram. We won 80-90% of the panchayat seats. We won all five mayor elections. More importantly, we won the Jind Lok Sabha bypoll with a comfortable margin. Congress spokesperson (Randeep Surjewala, who was the candidate there) felt that as he was contesting, no one stood a chance. He barely managed to save his deposit.
How many seats is the BJP likely to win in Haryana?
There is a wave for Modi ji. Every government has anti-incumbency. We saw it in some BJP-ruled states also. But in Haryana, the wave is in our favour. The government has done a lot, especially to check corruption. Earlier, there was a fixed rate that people had to pay to be appointed as a peon, sipahi or daroga. For the first time, people got appointment letters without going through all this.
But there seems to be anti-incumbency against the MPs.
Pro-incumbency is in favour of the government so even if there is some negativity at some level, it does not matter. Local people expect MPs to visit their constituencies multiple times and listen to their problems. An MP has no time and is not expected to go to that level so frequently. An MLA will have time for all that.
The AAP has tied up with INLD splinter group Jannayak Janata Party, led by Dushyant Chautala. How big a challenge is that for the BJP?
Till INLD was united, it had some influence in certain pockets especially because we supported them (BJP and INLD were partners in 2004). Later, we fought on our own and their party disintegrated due to family feud and corrupt practices. During INLD’s as well as Congress’ rule, there was gundaraj and lath tantra (use of muscle power to get things done). We ended all this. Now people feel relieved that there is rule of law. After having lost ground, they are allying with the AAP in the hope that they may save their identity. But they will fail to make any mark in any seat.
Your government is often under attack for mishandling the Jat agitation and the violence that erupted after the court verdict against Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
These are old issues. We acted strictly. When the verdict on Ram Rahim came, his followers created a ruckus and police had to open fire. The situation was brought under control within two hours. In fact, we insisted that Ram Rahim has to come to the court. He was reluctant. We told him that he was not beyond the rule of law. We controlled the situation with an iron hand.
It is said the Dera supported the BJP in 2014. After the firing incident and the incarceration of Ram Rahim, do you think Dera followers will support the BJP?
We will seek everyone’s support, including that of the Congress. One faction of Dera Sacha Sauda feels the government could have saved Ram Rahim. But the wise among them know that there was a court order and maintaining law and order is our duty.
You had also said the Congress supported the Jat agitation for reservation.
Jats are everywhere in Haryana. But the agitation happened in pockets where the Congress is strong: Rohtak, Sonipat, Jhajjar and Jind. A video was seen of Virendra Singh (close aide of ex-CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda) telling someone in Sirsa that ‘we have done our work (started a ruckus) here, why aren’t you doing the same in Sirsa?’.
Won’t the Congress’ NYAY scheme help the party in a state like Haryana? I feel neither the people nor the party is clear about its implementation. They are talking about a minimum income guarantee of Rs 72,000 per annum. But how will they implement it and how will they ascertain a family’s income? In Haryana, the per capita income is more than Rs 2 lakh. We have promised that we will support anyone whose income is less than a lakh by way of job, training, loan for business or skilling. We give educated youth Rs 9,000 for 100 hours of work. This comes to Rs 1,08,000 per year.
But why did you say that farm loan waivers make farmers aalsi (lazy)?
I never used the word aalsi. I had said a farmer must be supported in a way that enables him to take initiatives so that he creates opportunities on his own. For example, we can help them set up agri-related units. Giving a loan waiver here and there doesn’t serve the purpose.
Haryana has had only five women MPs since the state was formed in 1966. Does the BJP favour more representation for women in elections?
The government has no role to play in this. All parties will have to cooperate to bring in a legislation on reservation. We favour this but can't do it unilaterally.
In local body elections, there is 33% reservation for women candidates. But 42% of the elected representatives were women in the previous local body elections. Women are coming up in many fields. Sunita Duggal (the BJP¡¦s only woman candidate, from Sirsa) has earned a name for herself.
Now that she has resigned from the Indian Revenue Service, we have given her a ticket. Also, a candidate¡¦s ability to win is important. We will not give a ticket to a woman for the sake of it. But yes, if reservation becomes a reality, then it is a different matter.