Chandigarh: The unprecedented decision to withdraw work from a senior IPS officer due to alleged non-performance has brought the focus back on Haryana Home Minister and senior BJP leader Anil Vij, whose words and actions have often left his government and his party red-faced.
Last week, Vij had divested Additional DGP (administration & IT) A.S. Chawla of all charges, saying he would will only come to office, sit all day and go back home without doing any work. Chawla chose to proceed on a fortnight’s leave, instead.
At the same time, Vij has raised eyebrows with his insistence that the police did not conduct a lathi charge on farmers agitating against the central government’s three farm Bills in Pipli, Kurukshetra, on 10 September, despite videos and pictures of it going viral. He announced Friday that there was no need to even inquire into who was responsible for beating up the elderly protesting farmers.
Vij has a reputation for honesty, but it’s often overshadowed by his propensity to make outlandish statements. He takes on all comers, even those who have nothing to do with Haryana, such as the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, including the one at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, the Delhi elections, and now even Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut.
The Congress and its leaders, the Gandhi family, are common targets, and Vij has even gone to the extent of suggesting mental treatment.
इटली के लोग ताली बजाकर व मोमबत्तियां जला कर अपने देश की एकता को प्रदर्शित कर रहे परन्तु भारत मे इटली वाली के बच्चे इसका विरोध कर रहे । कोरोना के आपातकाल में भी कोरी राजनीति कर रहे ।
— ANIL VIJ MINISTER HARYANA (@anilvijminister) April 5, 2020
प्रधान मंत्री को डंडे से मारने की बात करने वाले राहुल गांधी को किसी अच्छे पागलखाने में भर्ती करवा देना चाहिए । हिंसक राहुल गांधी का खुले में घूमना ठीक नही है ।
— ANIL VIJ MINISTER HARYANA (@anilvijminister) February 6, 2020
Vij began his political career with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student wing ABVP, while doing his B.Sc. at Ambala’s S.D. College, and has never strayed too far from the Sangh’s ideology.
The 67-year-old unmarried politician 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.
Vij has won six elections to the assembly — in 1990, 1996, 2000, 2009, 2014 and 2019 — of which two were as an Independent candidate. His popularity is rooted in his unbroken engagement with the public and prompt action against the bureaucracy.
But in 2014, when the BJP registered a big victory in the Haryana assembly elections, the party high command overlooked Vij and chose another RSS man, Manohar Lal Khattar, as chief minister.
His appointment as home minister was the first time in 23 years that the portfolio had been given to a minister other than the CM in Haryana. At the press conference after the announcement, Vij called himself the ‘Gabbar Singh’ of Haryana politics, referring to the legendary villain from Sholay. “Ab Gabbar Singh aa gaya hai (Gabbar has arrived),” he said.
And therein lies the problem for the BJP — his penchant for controversy.
String of controversies
Sources in the BJP said one of the main reasons why Vij was not made CM despite his seniority and popularity was because of his “unpredictable” behaviour and his inability to get along with others.
Just last month, Vij locked horns Dushyant Chautala, the deputy CM and chief of BJP ally Jannayak Janata Party, over an inquiry set up by the home minister to probe a liquor scam exposed fissures in the alliance. While the inquiry indicted state excise and taxation commissioner Shekhar Vidyarthi, Chautala leapt to the official’s defence.
In January, Vij had clashed with CM Khattar over control of the CID wing of the Haryana Police. The CID wing is attached to the home department, but was taken over by the CM’s office. A war of words ensured, with Vij insisting the matter be taken to the cabinet for discussion and Khattar refusing to budge.
“The main problem with the minister is that he thinks that he is the only honest person around and, driven by his sense of self-righteousness, he ends up taking these decisions,” said a senior police officer familiar with Vij’s working style, referring to the decision to withdraw work from ADGP Chawla.
“But such decisions have more to do with playing to the gallery — to show his electorate that he is a no-nonsense politician who has the courage to act against bureaucrats. And in the process, he overdoes it,” the officer said on the condition of anonymity.