Haryana’s powerful Jat community has been demanding a Jat CM and Khattar is unlikely to earn their wrath by pushing for Jat Barala’s ouster in stalking case.
Chitleen K Sethi
Haryana’s characteristic Jat versus non-Jat politics has begun to play out in the Chandigarh stalking case involving the son of state BJP chief Subhash Barala.
Barala has been incommunicado following the incident on Friday night when a young woman, daughter of a Haryana IAS officer, was allegedly chased by Barala’s son Vikas and his friend Ashish. The two were booked for stalking and drink driving and bailed out the same night.
The incident has led to huge public outcry and the opposition’s demands for Barala’s ouster have become shriller. But the BJP made it clear Monday that no action would be taken against Barala.
Haryana BJP in-charge Anil Jain said as much in a tweet.
Earlier, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar too said Barala had nothing to do with the case. He said the incident involved an “individual” and Barala cannot be made party to it.
Barala is among the most prominent Jat leaders of the party in the state and any action against him is likely to alienate the powerful Jat electorate. Although the BJP won the 2014 assembly poll, it had lost heavily in the Jat belt.
The Jats had gone with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) or the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress. The BJP has since been trying to woo the Jats in a bid to consolidate its hold on the state. This was exemplified to some extent last year when the Khattar government came in for strong criticism for its “soft” stand during the violent campaign for Jat reservation.
Until last week, Barala was busy organising the three-day visit of BJP president Amit Shah to the state. Shah held party meetings, met RSS leaders, reviewing the party’s position almost three years into power. However, all this while, he stationed himself in Rohtak, a Jat stronghold. The move was seen as the party high command wanting its state unit to keep the focus on that area.
Within the state unit too, the BJP feels the need to maintain a “balance” between Jats and non-Jats. Many of those holding real power, starting with the chief minister, are primarily non-Jats. Apart from prominent faces Capt. Abhimanyu and O.P. Dhankar, a majority of the ministers in the Khattar cabinet are non-Jats.
Khattar has been shadow boxing the ‘Jat lobby’ within his party ever since he was made CM. A surprise choice of the BJP, Khattar, an RSS man was picked as chief minister. Last year, over a dozen Jat MLAs even approached the party high command to change Khattar as CM, replacing him with a Jat leader.
In fact, the matter was finally put to rest only last week when Shah, while addressing a press conference, had to make it clear that Khattar will not be changed as CM. Having just got the Jat lobby off his back, it is unlikely Khattar will invite their wrath in the stalking incident by going against Barala in any way.
The only person in the Haryana BJP who has spoken against Barala is Kurukshetra MP Raj Kumar Saini. He has said that Barala should resign on moral grounds. Saini, a prominent non-Jat leader has been fighting their cause for long. Diffident, he has been raising his voice within the party and also publically against the party mollycoddling the Jats.
He openly condemned the government’s move to grant reservation to Jats during their campaign last year. His statement drew the ire of the BJP and Barala, as state chief, issued a show cause notice for speaking against the party.
Editors note: An earlier version of this analysis was corrected to reflect that Manohar Khattar is not the first non-Jat or non-Punjabi chief minister of Haryana. The error is regretted.