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HomeOpinionPolitically CorrectHaryana CM Khattar exposes Modi-Shah’s biggest flaw — as talent-hunters

Haryana CM Khattar exposes Modi-Shah’s biggest flaw — as talent-hunters

The Modi-Shah strategy of experimenting with CMs has been unravelling one after another. Manohar Lal Khattar may be the latest example to prove its fallacy.

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Think of a chief minister who is running scared in his own state. Manohar Lal Khattar, the chief minister of Haryana, found it safer to hoist the tricolour in Panchkula this Republic Day — and not in Panipat where it was originally scheduled.

The Panipat venue was 16 km from the Karnal village from where Khattar had to turn back his helicopter a fortnight ago, after protesters vandalised the helipad. In another Karnal village a month before, he had to cancel his programme for the same reason. In Ambala, 13 farmers were booked on charges of attempt to murder and rioting after they waved black flags and allegedly damaged vehicles in Khattar’s convoy ‘with sticks’.

‘Haryana mein kya khichdi pak rahi hai (what’s cooking in Haryana)? Who is in control there?’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi must be wondering. Khattar may not have an answer even though, in their old days as pracharaks of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the 1990s, he used to cook delicious khichdi for Modi whenever the latter visited him in Haryana. The CM brings no comfort to the PM who must be worried about his ambitious farm reforms. Instead of trying to pacify the farmers of Haryana and find some middle ground to end the stalemate, Khattar is taking them on. “There is freedom to agitate but it doesn’t mean there is freedom to spread anarchy,” he said in his Republic Day address.

If a government has to suspend mobile internet and SMS services in 17 out of 22 districts in the state, the CM has reasons to fear anarchy. But who does the prime minister look to for support in Haryana? A chief minister for over five years doesn’t have the political capital to talk to his own people! Forget about supporting the Centre, M.L. Khattar is looking to PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to save his government that teeters on the edge. He took his deputy and crucial ally Dushyant Chautala of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) to meet them in Delhi. ‘Sort out his problem or your government in Haryana goes’ was the unstated message to the BJP high command.

What can the central BJP leadership do if a majority of JJP MLAs are edgy and exploring options? It wouldn’t be an issue at all if the JJP had to be split. But preventing a possible split in another party is a different ball game.

Also read: Panic in Haryana’s BJP-JJP govt as pressure grows within for action on farm laws

The failed experiment

If Khattar is turning out to be a political liability today, Modi and Shah must take the blame for this. He was a part of their experiment in social engineering, a simple arithmetical calculation: galvanize the diverse, disparate, numerically smaller communities and together they will outnumber the dominant community. So, they went for a Punjabi Khatri CM in Haryana where Jats are estimated to constitute a little over a quarter of the population. They opted for a Brahmin CM, Devendra Fadnavis, in Maharashtra where Marathas constitute about one-third of the population. They went for an OBC leader, Raghubar Das, in Jharkhand where tribals constitute around 26 per cent of the population.

The Modi-Shah strategy is, however, unravelling one after another; Khattar may be the next in line to prove its fallacy. His administrative and political inexperience was exposed way back in 2016 during the violent Jat reservation stir when the police ‘crumpled to its knees’.

If he recovered to a certain extent from that setback, it was not because he learnt the art of governance. It was because of his clean image in a state whose one former CM (Om Prakash Chautala) is serving a jail term in the teachers’ recruitment scam and another (Bhupinder Hooda) is facing probes in land acquisition cases, which, the Congress alleges, are a result of political vendetta.

Modi-Shah’s social engineering formula wasn’t good enough in the 2019 Haryana assembly election, in which the BJP gave “abki baar, sattar paar” slogan — over 70 seats in the 90-member assembly. The non-Jat consolidation, which a Khatri CM was expected to bring, didn’t happen the way the BJP would have wished. That’s how the BJP was forced to ally with the JJP to form the government. So, look at the big irony here: the CM and the Deputy CM of Haryana have different views about farm laws but they can’t split because both will then go down. And the continuing farmers’ agitation won’t allow them to live with these contradictions.

Also read: ‘Farmers’ party’ JJP under pressure to pull out of BJP-led govt, Dushyant Chautala faces heat

The problem lies elsewhere

Khattar’s case points to a larger problem confronting the BJP: Modi may be a mass leader and Amit Shah an accomplished political strategist, but they are poor talent-hunters. Khattar, Fadnavis, and Raghubar Das have failed them. Look at their choice of CM candidates in other states — Vijay Rupani in Gujarat, Sarbananda Sonowal in Assam, Trivendra Rawat in Uttarakhand, Jairam Thakur in Himachal Pradesh, Pramod Sawant in Goa, Biplab Deb in Tripura, and N. Biren Singh in Manipur. Can you put your finger on even one of these names as a mass leader, years after Modi-Shah made them CMs? Modi and Shah, too, would find it difficult.

I will be damned for excluding Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath from this list. He has emerged as a mass leader, for sure. But was he the PM’s first choice? Frankly, I don’t know. Different BJP leaders have different takes on this. Apart from Modi, the only two people who would know are Amit Shah and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. And don’t expect them to share any wisdom on this. There could probably be another person — Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha. He was said to be the PM’s first choice as UP CM. Don’t expect even him to make you any wiser for I have tried many times.

Of the three BJP CMs left, B.S. Yediyurappa of Karnataka and Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh are mass leaders but they are not exactly Modi-Shah’s finds. That leaves us with Pema Khandu of Arunachal Pradesh. He is certainly a mass leader in his state but he bargained to retain chief ministership with the BJP before he defected from the People’s Party of Arunachal.

Even in states where Modi-Shah promoted certain leaders, indirectly projecting them as potential CMs, they were in for disappointment. In Odisha, for instance, they promoted Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan but he failed miserably. The BJP trumped the Congress to emerge as the principal opposition party, but its tally of 23 in the 147-member Assembly is not something Modi or Shah would be proud of. Pradhan, a very powerful minister at the Centre, also ended up splitting the Odisha BJP– between his loyalists and others. No wonder, the BJP high command is exploring other options to groom as its face in Odisha.

Modi and Shah might have been let down by the people who they sought to promote but they haven’t given up on trying to groom new faces in every state. There is a constant attempt to replace old faces such as Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh, and Sushil Modi in Bihar, among others. Yediyurappa and Chouhan are trying their best not to join that list any time soon. It’s probably time Modi and Shah should change their criteria for new faces. For one, they may stop treating constant tweets and statements in their praise by party leaders (read job applicants) as an indication of the latter’s potential as mass leaders — that is, if the PM and HM really don’t want puppets as CMs as the Congress’ Gandhi family does.

Views are personal.

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  1. Main issue is that BJP does not want have the leaders like Congress. Leave aside, Vajpayee-Advani or Modi Shah, BJP is always short of talent. In fact, Modi Shah must be complimented for tryin something daring while developing the new talent. BTW, Devendra is a smart politician who was the best CM of Maharashtra but BJP could not make it on its own due to peculiar nature of local vote share.

  2. BJP duo Modishah doesn’t want mass leaders in states which can overshadow Modi’s image and brand. It’s similar like Ms Gandhi who
    always wanted weak leaders every where.

    • Ok You live in that illusion. I am glad that enemies of BJP like You think this way, as it gives BJP an advantage. In BJP, the leader does not have his own dynasty to propagate as future PM! I know its hilarious, but apart from BJP every party is busy promoting a dynast! In fact a leader from BJP will prepare and groom a successor to take over one day. Remove the ideological goggles and open your eyes! You can already see the next leader in the horizon being groomed by the ‘Modi-Shah duo’. If You dont want to see, that your choice and good for BJP.

  3. A pan Indian dominant political party – earlier the Congress, now the BJP – which is also in power in several important states should see charismatic, effective CMs as essential building blocks for continuing electoral success. Not as potential claimants to the Peacock Throne. That was an insecure – despite soaring personal popularity, great pity Rahul Kanwal was not there to record it for posterity – Mrs Gandhi’s contribution to Indian politics : bonsai CMs in a federal polity where most public services are provided to citizens by state governments, Delhi merely collects income tax. 2. For that matter, the acute talent crunch the column details for the states extends to Delhi as well. Unclear whether brilliant people are just not there or they are seen as threats more than assets.

  4. My only problem with opinions is when they are not based on facts, but on lies, half truths & even deception. Just because we need to write dime a dozen articles, can we lie? Apparently, at this Shekhar Gupta website You can! Lets tackle this deceitful article step by step. KHATTAR: ML Khattar is a 2nd time CM! In a state like Haryana that itself is a major achievement! Not only that, Khattar is the first ever CM of Haryana from BJP! BJP never had ANY PRESENCE in Haryana. So, a first time BJP CM, ‘foisted’ on Haryana by evil duo of Modi-Shah, not only completes his first term, BUT GETS RE-ELECTED, winning only 7 seats less than its 2014 tally! In my view Khattar has done exceptionally well! I am from Haryana, so is Shekhar Gupta. He would know what an achievement this is! As far as Jat violence goes, obviously opposition would want Khattar to crackdown with force. Thats what this biased author also wants. Thats what jholachaap ravish at ndtv wants. Thats what all the fanatic leftist want. However, Amit Shah is smarter than all of you put together. Khattar was EXTREMELY SMART to go to Panchkula. Let the Jats simmer. Let them do violence. The state of Haryana is watching, lets see who wins again, 25% or 75%. FADNAVIS: In 2014 BJP went alone in elections, contested 260 seats & won 122 seats. Fadnavis became CM after taking SS support. In 2019, BJP fought on ONLY 152 seats, as SS was pre-poll partner. STILL, BJP won a tremendous 105 seats out of 122! It was a STUPENDOUS performance by Fadnavis. He became first ever BJP CM to be elected to office TWICE, just like Khattar in Haryana. In fact, Fadnavis was becoming so popular, that SS pulled the rug from under him for its survival. Hence, a CM who wins 105 out of 152 contested seats, that too on RE-LECTION is branded ‘unpopular’ by this commie author, lets the readers make their own opinion about his journalism. RAGHUBAR DAS: He was a failure. Thats where in hindsight BJP could have gone with a better option, I am sure they will in future. VIJAY RUPANI: Whose shoes is Vijay Rupani stepping into? Huh? Who can step into those shoes? But Rupani has done exceedingly well! In recent bypolls in Gujarat, in 2020, during COVID pain, Rupani WON ALL 8 SEATS. Congress was decimated! What does Rupani has to do to live upto the standards of this author? How can he cast aspersions on him and brand him a failure? Is this journalism? Is 8/8 not good enough for the biased comrades? What is the benchmark of success then? SARBANAND SONOWAL: Sonowal is just about to romp home in Assam. All You comrades just watch! Not only that, the victory will be spectacular! BJP has already sent a clear message to allies that It can win on its own. The recent Bodoland territorial elections, amongst all the propaganda by NDTV and other communist ultra left media, BJP did very well. Congress won 1 seat! But looking at this author, even if Sonowal wins his 2nd term, he will be branded a failure, just like Khattar & Fadnavis. TRIVENDRA RAWAT & JAIRAM THAKUR: On what basis have you cast aspersions on these 2 CM’s and their performance? You sit in your office and denounce them, based on what? Have they gone to the people for re-election? Have they been rejected by the people? How can you brand them as non performers, and unpopular? These leaders will be tested by their states in the next elections. Not by biased individuals like this author. PRAMOD SAWANT: Dr Sawant has proved his mettle in local politics over the years. He is also stepping into VERY BIG SHOES of none other then Manohar Parrikar. Keeping that in mind, he has done very well! BJP had 13 MLA’s in last assembly elections. Now it has 27! A stellar performance in bypolls, and flocking of congress MLA’s to BJP led to this. It is certain that Dr Sawant will win in 2022 with a full majority. In this case also, this author has shown his ideological hatred towards BJP. YOGI ADITYANATH: I wont say anything. The people of UP will speak in 2022. Then the people of India will speak in 2029. MY CONCLUSION: Gone are the days when You lot could write any trash and people would be forced to suffer in silence against your biased, one sided narrative. Now, the more you lie, the more you will be exposed. You are branding 2 time CM’s as losers? You are branding those CM’s as losers who are winning full/full seats in bypolls? That too in Covid times? You are branding those CM’s as losers and upopular who have yet not gone to polls even? Shame on You! Have some respect towards your profession! In the garb of ‘opinion’ all you are peddling, and have peddled for years is just untruth! When NDTV could throw so much muck on a 4 time CM of Gujarat, then continue that poisnous tirade against him till this day, then what can one expect from You lot, who are nothing but their siblings.

    • A sound rebuttal with adequate explanations. Opinion writers should present honest facts and then their views.

  5. Why should the CM always be from a dominant caste?
    (Mr DK Singh, dear commentator: you had a few months ago had tried to deflect criticism and argue at great length that Yogi govt is not favoring Rajputs/Thakurs, when the perception is he is in fact doing so. Are you a Rajput? Would seem so – at the end of the day everone wails about their own caste. So much for “progressive” thinking).)

  6. The article is an insightful study in state politics of India. The BJP doesn’t appear to have risen above the typical Congress way of handpicking its favored candidates and foisting them as CMs in the states. But, at the same time, it will have to be acknowledged that a real leadership doesn’t hesitate in breaking new grounds. It must have required guts to put in the leadership position political personalities not necessarily belonging to the majority social groups. Among Khattar, Fadnavis, and Raghubar Das, the second one was very effective and did bring a good image to himself and the party. The choices of CM candidates in other states — Vijay Rupani in Gujarat, Sarbananda Sonowal in Assam, Trivendra Rawat in Uttarakhand, Jairam Thakur in Himachal Pradesh, Pramod Sawant in Goa, Biplab Deb in Tripura, and N. Biren Singh in Manipur reflect the tendency of a centralized disciplined federal party for which the BJP doesn’t offer any apology. The BJP CMs like B.S. Yediyurappa of Karnataka and Pema Khandu of Arunachal Pradesh are there because of the specific situation emerging in their states. Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh was in a way given an extension to his job. The Yogi of U.P. appears to have turned out from a different mold — his charisma and dynamism could rival those of Modi and Shah. In the Indira- Congress system such leaders emerged, making a name on their own and possibly foreshadowing the central leaders would eventually be cut to size or relieved. The observers will see what happens to him come next election. Ideally, in a democratic system, the members of the (newly elected) legislature party should be given complete autonomy to elect their own leader and line up behind him. But, unfortunately, factors like group-rivalries, back-biting, corruption or personal ambition are so rampant in Indian states that an honest enforcement of democratic principles doesn’t seem to be a possibility.

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