Chandigarh: The Haryana assembly election season is throwing up a mix of offensive and tasteless remarks, including by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, that have taken political discourse in the state to a new low.
Over the weekend, Khattar referred to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi as a “dead mouse”, while the BJP’s TikTok star candidate Sonali Phogat questioned the patriotism of attendees at a rally when they didn’t chant “Bharat mata ki jai” loud enough for her.
“Have you all come from Pakistan?” she asked them.
Congress’ Gurugram candidate Sukhbir Kataria, meanwhile, said “Bharat mata ki jai” will soon be replaced by “Sonia Gandhi ki jai, Sukhbir Kataria ki jai” in the constituency.
Khattar’s potshot for Sonia came Sunday in Sonepat, at one of the half-a-dozen rallies he has been addressing daily in the run-up to the election.
Commenting on the leadership crisis that embroiled the Congress following Rahul Gandhi’s resignation after the Lok Sabha polls, Khattar sought to criticise the party’s decision to bring Sonia back as chief when it failed to find a non-Gandhi after “three months of intensive search”. “Khoda pahad aur nikli chuhiya aur woh bhi mari hui (they dug up a mountain to find a dead mouse),” he said.
Sonia, who is 72, is believed to be ailing.
The Congress organised a protest in Delhi Monday to demand an apology from Khattar, but he is yet to issue one.
Taking a leaf out of Khattar’s book, Maharashtra Congress working chief Nitin Raut referred to the chief minister as a “khachar (mule)”. He hasn’t apologised either.
This is not Khattar’s first controversy this campaign season. During his Jan Ashirwad Yatra last month, Khattar appeared to threaten a BJP member when he tried to place a crown on his head. Khattar, who can’t tolerate anyone touching his head, shot back, “Gardan kaat dunga (I will behead you)”.
The fact that Khattar was holding a sword at the time made the entire episode look all the more menacing.
Phogat, who is contesting from Adampur, lost her cool at a rally last week when she asked the crowd to chant “Bharat mata ki jai”.
When she did not get an enthusiastic response from a section of the crowd, she screamed, “Shame on you… Have you all come from Pakistan?” she asked the crowd. “Your votes are useless if you cannot say Bharat mata ki jai.”
She subsequently apologised for her remarks in several interviews.
Fellow BJP candidate Jagdish Nayar, who is contesting from Hodal, is these days seen campaigning with a pair of shoes on his head, apparently in repentance for having spoken offensively against the state’s powerful Jat community — although he denies having said any such thing.
“I am keeping a shoe on my head only to tell the public that if I am elected, I will serve them like a servant,” he said in an interview.
‘Why would I not win’
While Kataria’s “Sonia Gandhi ki jai remark” has pushed the BJP to launch a campaign with the theme “Gurugram mein sirf Bharat mata ki jai”, the Congress has other offenders too.
Chiranjeev Rao, the son of former state minister Capt Ajay Yadav who is the party’s candidate from Rewari, has been heard boasting to his supporters, “Why would I not win? I am the son of a captain and son-in-law of (RJD chief) Lalu Prasad Yadav?”
Chiranjeev is married to Lalu’s daughter Anushka.