To everyone’s dismay, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar ran the BJP’s first government in Haryana for five years without showing too much interest in the people’s welfare. Farmers suffered greatly in a state that is a synonym for agricultural output, and unemployment ran high. This hasn’t stopped the RSS-BJP leader from being once again sworn in as CM on Sunday. Mr Khattar will thus be the first non-Congress politician to be CM for two successive terms in Haryana.
And yet he didn’t win the Assembly polls earlier this month. The BJP lost its majority. Its numbers fell below the halfway mark. Practically all ministers lost, showing the extent of the people’s fatigue. There was gloom in the saffron camp as the Congress, fighting under the leadership of former CM B.S. Hooda, ran the BJP close, quite unexpectedly — and won 10 of its 31 seats along the G.T. Road, seen as a BJP preserve.
Mr Khattar owes his return as CM to the greed of Jananayak Janata Party (JJP) leader Dushyant Chautala. The JJP, an offshoot of the late Devi Lal’s political legacy, did surprisingly well for a new party, winning 10 seats out of 90 in the state legislature. This was because it took up the grievance of farmers seriously and campaigned hard against the ruling BJP, just as the Congress did. Later, however, Mr Chautala found the bait of deputy CM offered by the BJP irresistible, forgetting that the election verdict was against the BJP.
This is likely to have consequences for governance, depending on how successfully the Congress is able to play the role of an effective Opposition party that can highlight the opportunism of the BJP and JJP for the sake of power.
In Karnataka, the Congress lost its majority in the state polls in early 2018 and backed JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy for CM, while retaining its political influence to such a degree that fights with its ally became a routine affair, eventually leading to the government’s fall well before time. This was political opportunism gone wrong.
In Haryana, however, the BJP was power-hungry enough not only to grab the CM’s post but also retain a failed leader as CM. A change of guard was not countenanced, displaying remarkable hubris. The act could succeed only due to the avarice of the JJP leader. Many in the state are apt to see this as sacrificing farmers’ interests. The exercise looks like dubious politics and questionable morality. Surprisingly, the move was sanctioned by the two most powerful political figures in the country — Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in public remarks made Mr Khattar appear as a paragon of sagacity and administrative capacity, and Union home minister Amit Shah, who summoned Mr Khattar to New Delhi when the gloomy results were in, presumably to counsel him to put on a show of brazenness.