Karnal: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the “quality” to turn all criticism of him in his favour.
In an highly-charged election, where the prime minister himself has been accused of lowering the level of political discourse, Modi has also been at the receiving end of the opposition’s attacks, being called a chaiwallah (tea seller), pakorewalla (pakoda seller) and chowkidar chor hai (the chowkidar is a thief).
In an interview to ThePrint, Khattar said that Modi’s detractors only empower him with their “abuse”.
“Modi has fantastically managed to encash every abuse that the opposition has ever hurled at him,” Khattar said. “He was called maut ka saudagar (merchant of death), then chaiwallah, pakorewalla and finally chowkidar chor hai. But Modi has a quality that if you abuse him, he will convert all that in his favour.”
Khattar also defended Modi’s remarks calling his predecessor, Rajiv Gandhi, ‘Bhrastachari number 1 (corrupt number 1)’.
“During the Congress’ time, corruption was at its peak. They did not leave the land, water or the air. We have the 2G scam, coal scam and many land scams,” Khattar said. “The label of corruption sticks on the Congress. They cannot deny it and we stand by PM Modi’s statement about him (Rajiv Gandhi).”
Asked why the BJP is seeking votes in name of nationalism and not on development, Khattar launched an attack on the previous Congress government.
“Both good governance and nationalism are important to us. When BJP was founded, it had nationalism at its core. We need to connect people with nationalism. But that does not mean that good governance takes a back seat. We have worked on that front as well,” he said.
“To add to this, the previous government was known as BBC (B for Badliyan, which is transfers, B for Bhartiyan, which is postings and C for change of land use). This was a flourishing industry and we have shut it all down and brought in transparency,” added Khattar.
He also countered the opposition’s criticism that BJP candidates are seeking votes in the prime minister’s name.
“If we are asking for votes in the name of Modiji, what’s wrong with it?” Khattar asked. “Were votes never sought in the name of Indira Gandhi or Nehru? A bereft opposition is now objecting to the BJP asking for votes in his name? Is there nothing else they are left with?”
‘Haryana govt did not just focus on religious issues’
Khattar further said that the Haryana government did not just concentrate on religious issues in the five years it has been in power.
“The focus of my government is not just gau raksha, Gita mahotsavs and the Saraswati river,” he said. “We have emphasised on employment, prosperity, cleanliness, transparency in government jobs and women safety.
“It is not true that my government has focused just on these three things alone, but yes, these were aspects which were ignored by earlier governments and we brought attention back on them,” he added.
“Gau raksha is important to us. People are ready to give their lives to protect cows. It is the same with the Gita and the Saraswati river. These are part of our rich culture and any society that chooses to ignore its history, perishes.”
According to Khattar, transparency in providing jobs to those eligible has been his biggest achievement. “We have given all jobs only on the basis of merit. This has filled the youth with hope that if they are eligible and competent, they can get a job,” he said. “Instead of trying to find connections with politicians to get them jobs, they are now studying in libraries knowing that if they are good they will make it.”
Khattar also addressed the issue of women safety in the state. His government has been facing the heat for not being able to control rapes in the state. The National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data shows the state accounts for the highest number of gang-rapes in the country.
“The situation has been bad for several years and there is a need to bring deep-rooted changes in our society. We have tightened the rules to nab criminals accused in rape cases,” Khattar said.
He also listed the changes that the state government has brought in. “Haryana was the first state to pass the act that said that those convicted of raping a child younger than 12 years of age, should be given capital punishment,” he said.
“The government can ensure that criminals are deterred. But the NCRB data also shows that in most cases, the rapist is known to the victim. The government cannot deploy a cop on every man. Change has to begin within society.”
‘Confident BJP will win’
Khattar said he is confident that his government’s achievement in the state and that of NDA in the Centre will ensure BJP candidates breeze through to victory without resorting to caste-based politics.
“The hold of caste politics in Haryana will diminish gradually only over years when the youth of the state begin to question parties and demand governments to perform,” he said. “Older generations continued to believe that the caste was the basis of politics. But we have tried to break the traditional caster barriers in the state.”
Continuing with its bold experiment, which bore results in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has this time too fielded non-Jat candidates on Jat-centric seats of Sonepat, Rohtak and a non-Brahmin on the Brahmin-dominated Karnal seat.
“We have fielded candidates from all groups and castes without looking at these traditional equations,” he said. “Since every candidate has to be of some caste or the other, such analysis emerge. My slogan from day one has been Haryana ek Haryanvi ek (There is only one Haryana and all Haryanvis are one). I have ensured that my government has performed without any caste or regional bias.”
He added that the BJP had also tried to break the grip of dynastic politics of Haryana. There is hardly a seat in Haryana where a “dynasty politician” is not a candidate.
“The Hooda family represents yet another example of dynastic politics in India. And it has continued in Haryana for many decades,” Khattar said. “In 2014, for the first time, Haryana’s public sent out a clear message that sons and daughters of the common man can also be brought to power. This (dynastic politics) is something that will soon end.”
But what about the BJP fielding Brijendar Singh, the son of Union Steel Minister Birender Singh, in Hisar. “Yes, that is there but he was given the ticket only after the father decided to resign from the Rajya Sabha,” Khattar said.
He also played down suggestions that the political scenario in the state had changed with the entry of smaller players such as the Jannayak Janata Party and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
“The opposition is under duress. You can see the opposition is divided and that is why they are looking out for partners in coalitions,” Khattar said. “I give you evidence why I think we will win. We have won every election, be it mayoral elections, the Jind by-election or the municipal corporation, the opposition hasn’t won any of them.”
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