Initially, I planned that the title of this post should scream out an honest confession “How Narendra Modi picked a winner and how I was wrong”. But then, I realized it would be too pompous. Okay…I was wrong. No big deal. I am often wrong. It’s not breaking news 🙂
In 2014, BJP Chief Ministers were installed for the first time ever in Haryana and Maharashtra. At this point, let me quickly make one remark: I have a soft corner for Devendra Fadnavis. I think he is headed for something huge. Shivraj Singh Chouhan is about 10 years younger than Modi. Too close. Fadnavis is 20 years younger. Modi is ~20 years younger than Advani. Fadnavis runs a high visibility state like Maharashtra …if he can showcase agricultural and industrial success there, I think he will be PM one day.
But, let me confess to my own bias. I had the opposite opinion of Modi’s other pick, in Haryana. I always thought M L Khattar was a dead end. The media always saw this humble RSS pracharak the same way. Always fumbling in English, tripping over cow, beef… A sitting duck really for the Lutyens media. Add to that the fact that Khattar is not even a good orator in Hindi and you have the perfect punching bag for the secular media.
Add to that the rural distress prevailing due to 2 successive drought years. Add to that the fumble over urea in rural Haryana in early 2015…when supplies ran woefully short owing to a massive policy goof up by the BJP governments at the State and Center. In some places, farmers were rioting…literally…for urea. Add to that the constant vilification of Khattar by TV media in heavily urbanized Haryana. I thought BJP was a goner in Haryana…one state they could definitely write off in Lok Sabha 2019. In any case, BJP has a history of fumbling badly the first time they are in power in any state: be it Gujarat or Karnataka or Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh…the first BJP government in any state has a history of collapsing under its own weight.
So, what comes as a total surprise to me is Khattar’s massive sweep in Haryana Zila Parishad polls.
Keep in mind that the parties did not contest on their symbols (except BSP) and so the data could be slightly off. But it is indeed clear that the BJP has won at least 19, perhaps 20 out of the 21 Zila Parishads.
Now, local elections are poorly correlated with state (or national) polls and generally tend to be won by the ruling party. But a 20/21 sweep in a state where media would perceive almost everything going wrong for the BJP tells a story. This is Haryana, the backyard of the Noida-Gurgaon media where Khattar is a daily punching bag. This is Haryana, home of Delhi’s media whore Chief Minister. If media cannot drive elections here, where can it?
Clearly, Modi picked a winner. The humble RSS man who came from nowhere has proven his worth. It is yet another testament to the Sangh’s leader factory. It is yet another testament to the power of the BJP cadre. Raman Singh was nobody. Neither was Shivraj Singh Chouhan. But, once elevated, they established themselves as leaders. Modi can only sow the seeds, it is for the cadre to nurture the crop. The ability to create strong regional leaders is the BJP’s greatest asset and it’s core competence. With no ruling family that owns the party (thank god!), the ability to churn out leader after leader is a question of survival for the BJP.
The good news for the BJP from Haryana doesn’t end here. Notice that Congress is still at 3rd position. The main opposition continues to be the Chautalas. In other words, Haryana has become “Congress mukt”. Remember, the purpose in every state is not just to defeat the Congress, the purpose is to make people stop seeing the Congress as an option at all: to make states “Congress mukt”.
Of course, there is a deft caste calculation at play here as well. Despite being relatively prosperous, Haryana suffers from two plagues. First, it is a state with one of the worst histories of caste conflict. Having a Jat BJP CM in a state where the two other competitors (Chautala and Hooda) are also Jats would create a deadlock. Instead, having Khattar, who is a Punjabi, gives a chance for BJP to get all the non-Jat vote under its banner. Oh and by the way, it seems like Dalits voted for BJP big time in Haryana. This is also the same Haryana where the media tried its best to play up “Faridabad Dalit killings”. Dalits in nedia dense Haryana didn’t give a damn about the Shehzada’s Rohith Vemula drama. It is time for BJP to become more confident about its new Dalit voters. Those desperately hoping for Dalits to break with BJP should realize they are simply on the wrong side of history. Dalits have long become politically empowered and they are simply refusing to fall for the smear campaign that the BJP is some kind of upper caste “Brahmin-Bania party”. LOL! Modi himself is an OBC who went to Varanasi and uprooted a Brahmin like Murli Manohar Joshi. The smear campaign simply has no legs to stand on.
The second plague of Haryana is killing of girls in the womb and also the unspeakably horrifying crime of actually murdering female infants. This is perhaps where the BJP has done its best work. Khattar has taken his “Beti bachao” program to the grassroots. When Jat leaders met the PM to talk about reservations, he promised to support them if they would cooperate in spreading word against female infanticide. The previous Republic Day was turned into a show of women power in the Armed forces. Even this Republic Day, Khattar made it a point that parents of girl children should be honored in every village. In every village of Haryana, the flag was hoisted by the most educated girl in the community. I do not know how much the BJP contributed to women empowerment via “pink chaddi” campaign of feminists, but I do know that the BJP got this done:
“Haryana’s child sex ratio (0-6 age group) crossed the 900 mark for the first time in 10 years in December 2015”
I don’t know how many tweets have been planned by leading saviors of women such as Kavitha Krishnan to mock the “tokenism” of #SelfiewithDaughter, but here is what Khattar has planned:
““We have set a target to achieve sex ratio above 950 within the next six months for the entire state,” Khattar said ”