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Anil Vij: The banker & RSS product who puts both his feet in his mouth & loves the feeling

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The Haryana minister has now demanded that the words ‘Sindh’ and ‘adhinayak’ be removed from the national anthem.

Chandigarh: Haryana’s cabinet minister Anil Vij is not afraid of political storms, especially those with him at the centre. Vij is controversy’s child; some even believe that he enjoys them.

Though he has the reputation of being honest, his work as minister for health and sports often gets overshadowed when he shoots off his mouth, taking on all comers, even those who have nothing to do with Haryana.

The latest controversy comes thanks to his call to remove the words ‘adhinayak’ and ‘Sindh’ from the national anthem. Sindh is an obvious one, considering that it went over to Pakistan in 1947; ‘adhinayak’, he says, must be removed because it signifies subjugation under a dictator, which has no place in a democracy.

“We are not under a dictator anymore and the word ‘adhinayak’ needs to be removed,” Vij told newspersons Saturday, generating a political storm. He was speaking in support of a demand made by Congress MP Ripun Bora, who had moved a private member’s resolution in the Rajya Sabha seeking the replacement ‘Sindh’ with the northeast in the anthem.

Semantic suggestions

This is not the first time Vij has made semantic suggestions. Just a few months ago, he said the song ‘Sabarmati ke sant’ from the 1954 film Jagriti was an insult to freedom fighters. “The song is sung by Congressmen and insults bravehearts like Bhagat Singh and others who sacrificed their lives during the struggle for independence,” Vij had said.

He had once backed a government panel’s suggestion that the Indus Valley Civilisation be renamed the ‘Saraswati River Civilisation’, saying it would not be rewriting history but “correcting” it.

RSS man to the bone

The five-time MLA from Ambala Cantonment is a true-blue RSS product. The 65-year-old never married, and has remained committed to the RSS ideology. Vij joined politics as a student leader of the ABVP while he was doing his B.Sc., at S.D. College, Ambala.

Vij worked in a bank for years before taking to business. He jumped into electoral politics after the BJP’s star from Ambala, Sushma Swaraj, shifted to the national stage. He won elections in 1990, 1996, 2000 and 2009, twice as an independent candidate, although he has never moved far from the Sangh discourse.

Last year, he was quoted as saying by a news agency: “A Hindu can never be a terrorist; there cannot be any term like ‘Hindu terrorism’”, and that “if a Hindu was a terrorist then there would be no terrorism in the world, it would have ended”.

Two years ago, he told a news channel that those who could not live without eating beef need not enter Haryana. He even suggested that the cow should replace the tiger as the national animal of India.

On the Kashmir issue, he once tweeted: “Kashmir mein jab bhi koi suraksha balon par pathar marta hai, mujhe lagta hai ki usne mujhko pathar mara hai aur dil karta hai ki pathar marne vale ko goli mar doon (when someone pelts stones at security forces in Kashmir, I feel the stone has been hurled at me and I feel like shooting the stone pelter).”

A week after UP BJP MLA Sangeet Som had said in October that the Taj Mahal was a blot on Indian culture, Vij tweeted: “Taj Mahal ek khoobsurat kabristan hai (Taj Mahal is a beautiful graveyard).”

In bad taste

Vij’s caustic tongue is unsparing, and he often makes comments in bad taste.

Just before the Gujarat assembly elections last year, he had said: “Purani kahavat hai – 100 kuttey mil kar bhi ek sher ka muqabla nahi kar sakte. Modi sher hai. Gujarat mein BJP hi jeetegi” (There is an old saying that even 100 dogs together can’t fight off a tiger. Modi is a tiger. In Gujarat, the BJP will win).

When there was an uproar over the Khadi and Village Industries Commission replacing Mahatma Gandhi’s picture with Narendra Modi on its calendars and diaries, Vij had said the rupee started devaluing ever since Mahatma Gandhi’s picture was put on it. He added that khadi too lost out as a product because Gandhi was associated with it. He insisted that Modi was a better “brand name” than Gandhi. He was forced to retract these comments.

Then, he took on teenager Gurmehar Kaur – who had lost her father during the 1999 Kargil war and was at the centre of a political debate for raising her voice against violence on college campuses. “Those supporting Gurmehar Kaur are pro-Pakistan, therefore such people should be thrown out of the country,” was Vij’s suggestion. He added that she tried to play politics on her father’s martyrdom.

Last year in August, when almost all politicians in the state chose to maintain a strategic silence during the crises caused by Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s conviction in rape cases, Vij went to town saying that he will continue to go to the Dera and ask for votes. He even justified the Rs 50 lakh grant he gave to the Dera for sports.

In March 2014, he was suspended from the Haryana assembly for making objectionable comments against then-education minister Geeta Bhukkal.

Not even Khattar is immune

Vij was among the front-runners for the post of the chief minister following the BJP’s 2014 victory, but lost out to another RSS man Manohar Lal Khattar.

In 2015, when Khattar announced actor Parineeti Chopra as Haryana’s brand ambassador for the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ central scheme, Vij tweeted: “I do not have any information of anybody appointed brand ambassador of my department for Beti Bachao programme.”

On another occasion, angry that he wasn’t informed about his department’s official functions where the CM had been invited, he tweeted: “Thank you chief minister for taking keen interest into my departments, I am relaxed.”

He had once also alleged that the state CID was spying on him.

This year, he demanded a ban on the release of film Padmaavat in Haryana even after Khattar had announced the government would wait for the Centre’s decision on it.

Watch this space.

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