The dust has barely settled after the long-drawn Lok Sabha election process, but another poll battle is already round the corner in Haryana. With Assembly elections likely to be held in October, the state is now seeing political maneuvering and combative statements being made by several leaders.
In recent days, BJP's top brass has addressed high-pitched rallies in the state, in which they foregrounded — no surprises here — the Centre's recent moves in Kashmir and its policy vis-à-vis Pakistan. The surprise element came from Congress leader and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, whose salvos put his own party in a spot of bother, rather than the BJP.
BJP reaches out to defence personnel, hails Modi's '56-inch chest'
When elections are approaching, references to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "56-inch chest" are bound to be made. The most recent such remark came from Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who said in Haryana's Kalka, "At times, Pakistan wants to break our country by using terrorism. But our 56-inch chest prime minister has shown the country how decisions can be taken. After the Pulwama attack, our air force carried out the Balakot strike."
Singh made the statement while flagging off the BJP's Jan Ashirwad Yatra for the Assembly polls.
He said that for the present government, India's respect, pride and prestige was above all and it was committed to this. He also accused Pakistan of wanting to destabilise and weaken India through terrorism.
He also said, "If talks take place (with Pakistan), it will be on PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) and not on any other issue."
While much of the saffron party's rhetoric has been directed at events unfolding across the border, it has also sought to underline its development agenda. For instance, Home Minister Amit Shah, during a rally at Jind, lashed out at the previous governments at the Centre for not creating the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), recommended after the 1999 Kargil War.
“Governments came and went but never took a decision on it,” he said, hailing the announcement made by Modi in his Independence Day address. Shah said the CDS will ensure synergy between the three armed forces — army, navy and air force.
“I feel that because of this, our defence capability will strengthen manifold,” he said.
Shah's remarks on defence capabilities assume significance as serving and retired defence personnel are an important constituency in Haryana. The state has only about 2.09 percent of the country's population, but contributes over 10 percent of the total number of army recruits, as per a report in Hindustan Times.
In his rally, Shah also lauded Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar for running a “corruption free” government in the state.
He said the state was earlier infamous for “land deals” and recruitment in government jobs had turned into a “trade”. He further said, “In one term, Khattar turned corruption into 'bhoot kaal' (past tense).”
Congress promises farm loan waivers, pension hikes
The Haryana Congress has been targeting the Khattar-led government over unemployment, deterioration of law and order, and corruption.
Bhupinder Singh Hooda called upon people to support him and exhorted them to oust the "non-performing" Khattar government, saying that "this is the last opportunity to save the state".
He said if he becomes the chief minister, he will increase old age pension to Rs 5,000 from present Rs 2,000, waive farmers' loan, give financial aid of Rs 2,000 per month to women belonging to the BPL category, free power up to 300 units for BPL families and will make wheat and rice available at Rs 2 per kg for such families.
However, Hooda caused more than a flutter in the Congress when he supported the Central government on invalidating Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. "When the government does something right, I always support it. Many of my colleagues opposed the Centre's decision to abrogate Article 370. They have lost their way. It is not the same Congress as it used to be," said Hooda, while addressing the 'Maha Parivartan rally' in Rohtak.
Notably, he made these statements after former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi criticised the manner in which the Centre introduced the legislative changes in Jammu and Kashmir. Rahul had said on Twitter, "National integration isn’t furthered by unilaterally tearing apart Jammu and Kashmir, imprisoning elected representatives and violating our Constitution. This nation is made by its people, not plots of land."
Although several other Congress leaders had made statements supporting the Modi-led government on its recent actions in the state, their remarks were made before Rahul posted the tweet.
What's more, Hooda on Sunday virtually threatened to part ways with the Congress. He announced that a 25-member committee would decide the future course of action for his faction, which has been demanding that Hooda be made the state unit chief in place of Ashok Tanwar. Hooda has reportedly been engaged in a power tussle with Tanwar, who has been the state unit chief since February 2014. The tussle is said to have further aggravated since the recent Lok Sabha polls, when the BJP won all ten seats in the state.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Aug 19, 2019 21:49:54 IST