Continuing protests by the Jat community in Haryana and their growing ranks are proving a major challenge for the BJP government in the state that had earlier shown political and administrative ineptness in dealing with the anarchic violence a year ago….writes Jaideep Sarin
Bitter memories of the large-scale violence in 10 districts of the state last February during the Jat agitation for reservations, which left 30 people dead and over 200 injured and caused damage worth hundreds of crores of rupees to government and private property, are still fresh in the minds of people.
The inept handling by the government of the protests, which eventually led to the violence after the agitation was virtually hijacked by unscrupulous elements, had come in for criticism from all quarters.
This time too, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has hardly done much — since the Jats resumed their agitation on January 29 — to instil confidence among the people that the situation will not get out of hand.
Initially, the government of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar tried to project that only a faction led by All India Jat Sangharsh Samiti (AIJASS) president Yash Pal Malik, was resorting to protests. The government opted to talk to other factions of Jat leaders to defuse the situation, but the move backfired.
In the last fortnight, the Jat protests have grown bigger and have spread to nearly 20 of Haryana’s 22 districts. BJP leaders in Haryana have even labelled Malik an “outsider” and tried to project that the Jat protests were politically influenced by the assembly elections in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
Ministers, legislators and leaders of the ruling BJP, including those from the Jat community, are blaming the Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leadership for fishing in troubled waters by supporting the Jat protests.
Last year too, the BJP government and leadership had squarely blamed the Congress, particularly the camp led by former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, himself a prominent Jat leader, for the protests and the violence.
Having come to power for the first time on its own since the creation of Haryana in 1966, the BJP, which is seen as a party supported by traders and non-Jat communities, has not been able to deal with the Jat community.
The Jats in Haryana have played a dominant role in Haryana’s politics. They constitute 28 per cent of the state’s nearly 28 million population and 25 per cent of its electorate.
The other main political parties, the Congress and the INLD, are led by Jat leaders and have a considerable hold over the community. The INLD, particularly, is dominated by Jat leaders from the clan of former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal and his son Om Prakash Chautala.
During last year’s Jat agitation, two senior Jat ministers in the Khattar government, O.P. Dhankar and Abhimanyu, intervened but the move failed.
The BJP had also roped into its fold senior Jat leader Birender Singh, who was with the Congress for over four decades, before the 2014 parliamentary elections.
But the bottom line is that the BJP has not been able to make inroads into the Jat leadership and the community in the nearly 30 months it has been governing the state.