Game Over for Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar?
Dushyant Chautala’s political future may also be on choppy waters
The game seems to be over for Haryana’s incumbent Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, and the equally discredited leader of Chautala dynasty’s splinter group, Dushyant Chautala. For one, locals say that both of them are unable to even visit their homes and constituencies. The fear of the farmers’ wrath apparently stalks them.
Now, the fear of the world champion women wrestlers has come to hound them. The ‘Haryana Ki Betiyan’ and the historic struggle waged by them, against all odds, against a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bahubali from Uttar Pradesh, has clearly won a gold medal in every heart in their home state, especially in the hearts of young girls and women.
The wheel seems to have turned full circle. First came the protracted and peaceful struggle of the farmers’ against the three Farm Laws, in synthesis with the united collective of farmers of Western UP and Punjab, especially, and the rest of the country. Almost all hues of farmers’ unions joined this glorious struggle from across the length and breadth of India.
The huge multitude of farmers, including women and children, braved the scorching heat, the harsh, freezing winter, and torrents of the monsoon rain. They were steadfastly facing the barricades and the armed cops, out in the open, unafraid and relentless.
And they won the final non-violent battle, despite the many dead among them, even while not a tear was shed by the BJP establishment in Delhi.
Then came the unprecedented, and unexpected struggle of the women wrestlers, which was effectively joined by all the top leaders of farmer unions, from Haryana, Punjab and Western UP. The khaps openly backed the brave daughters of the land, who are role models and inspirational icons for all sons-of-the-soil across the borders.
This acquired a sharper edge once the women wrestlers, along with Olympian Bajrang Punia and women’s rights groups in Delhi, were brutally dragged and manhandled on the streets of Delhi, even while an alienated and lonely Prime Minister was walking like a mythical monarch in a modern democracy, holding a symbolic Sengol, surrounded by sundry priests chanting Vedic mantras in a new Parliament. This event was boycotted by almost the entire Opposition. That marked a turning point.
“Our brave daughters have certainly sent a positive and optimistic message. They have turned the tide in a dismal scenario where all protests seem to have been eliminated, and civil society groups have gone silent.
“Who could have expected that girls from Haryana, who should be protecting their skin, would go out in the open and fight so doggedly against these terribly shameful acts of a bahubali? With their dogged resilience against the mighty State, they truly marked a decisive turning point for the restoration of Indian democracy,” said Sunita Tyagi, retired professor of Zoology, at Gohana, Sonepat, Haryana.
“That the farmers from Western UP, Punjab and Haryana joined them at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, and across Western UP, Haryana and Punjab, along with hundreds of women, boosted the morale of our girls, who were otherwise facing routine harassment at the hands of the Delhi police. So much so, in a nasty move, they were not even allowed to use the public toilets,” she said.
“While the farmers did play an important role, along with the unprecedented movement by the wrestlers, I feel, it was the mothers and daughters of Shaheen Bagh in Delhi who first heralded the big struggle against communal polarisation in India, with the forcible enactment of the polarising and anti-constitutional CAA,” said Dr C. D. Sharma, civil society activist and well-known surgeon, who runs a hospital for the poor in Gohana, charging only Rs 10 as admission fee.
“All of us joined the students in solidarity here, and out there in Delhi, when JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia were attacked. We have joined our women wrestlers in Jantar Mantar and have held rallies and marches in Haryana, along with others. However, I am convinced that the starting point of this resurrection of democracy was at the peaceful dharna site in Shaheen Bagh, which had a spiralling effect across the country, with many Shaheen Baghs springing up across cities and small towns,” he said.
According to Sunita Tyagi, Dr Sharma and many of their friends involved in local struggles in Rohtak, Sonepat and the neighbourhood in Haryana, these campaigns have finally pushed the state BJP to the wall. According to them, the government’s scorecard has been abysmal.
There has been no industrial growth whatsoever despite the hype, people are dependant excessively on agriculture, and the aspiring youth are finding all avenues for growth and employment shut in the state.
“This is a syndrome that impacts girls the most,” said a woman teacher, adding “Most of them find education and career, a significant way to escape what is traditionally a conservative and orthodox, male-dominated society. Now, even the most brilliant among them find it hard to overcome the barriers and carve out a new, independent, optimistic life, because the state offers no chance to them.”
“The manner in which the Central and state governments have dealt with the women wrestlers, who are symbols of international success in what is a terribly conservative society for young girls and women, has sent a negative signal across the hinterland, including in rural areas. With aspirational levels high among young women, this is bound to mark a bad omen for the BJP in the forthcoming polls,” said a woman student, now based in Delhi.
“Contrary to expectations, women and students did not join the wrestlers’ movement in Haryana. Even men did not join, who are otherwise always over-zealous in their effort to impose orthodox codes on women. For instance, inter-caste and inter-faith marriages are vehemently opposed, and live-in relationships are just not liked,” said Sunita Tyagi. Despite this, in their silence, their heart beats for their daughters, and the wrestlers’ struggle would translate into votes against the BJP in the next round of polls.
Locals believe that Dushyant Chutala and his fledgling outfit will be wiped out in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. So will the BJP, while the Congress will sweep the polls. Even in the Assembly polls which would follow, the BJP might not cross the double digit mark, they said. With the farmers belonging to the Jat community terribly unhappy with the Centre, especially on the issue of MSP, and with the wrestlers’ struggle thrown in, the BJP has little chance in both the elections.
This would certainly have its political fall-out in Punjab, Western UP and Rajasthan. These three states have several Jat-dominated constituencies, and the BJP is already on a sticky wicket out there. With upper caste communities leading the Hindutva forces, and with the communal card having been effectively dumped in the face of compelling economic issues, these three states in the Hindi heartland seem to be following the mandate of West Bengal and Karnataka.