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Hooda government under scanner

Haryana is again in the news, more for socio-security reasons than political. Even as the reprehensible Mirchpur tragedy in which Dalits houses were set afire burning alive a Dalit and his handicapped daughter still haunt the memory, incidents of Dalits migrating from some other villages continue to appear in the media. Among the latest are the exodus of 70 Dalit families of Bhagana village of Hisar district and ten from Dhani Thakriya village alleging caste-discrimination and social boycott by upper-castes. They have been sitting in dharna in Hisar with BSP workers from Hisar division now coming to their support.

The social boycott of Dalits by upper-castes (Jats) is a legacy of Haryana’s age-old caste-based prejudices which usually have adverse fallout on the law and order situation. First it was the khap panchayat diktats for ostracising lovers opting for inter-caste or inter-gotra marriages and also ordering social boycott of their families. And then Haryana Jats were on the warpath demanding reservations in government jobs. Normal life in parts of Haryana was affected by the protesters blocking road and rail traffic. The government adopted a time-gaining approach to resolve the still simmering issue.

The disturbing aspect of these developments was the overt or covert support they were given by politicians for garnering support of the entrenched caste-based vote banks.

As though such caste confrontations were not enough, now it is the sorry state of some of the state’s shelter homes for the destitute being run by certain government recognised NGOs which is hitting the headlines. Their deplorable functioning including cases of sexual abuse of some of their inmates has tarnished the Hooda government’s image.

Apart from these detestable events, it is the deteriorated law and order that is casting its dark shadow over the quality of governance in Haryana. After the cases of jail breaks there have lately been cases of witnesses who came to appear in courts being shot dead within the courts premises. Besides, the graph of rape cases and robberies has been shooting up in the state with Gurgaon, the industrial capital of Haryana, becoming the crime capital of the state creating an acute sense of insecurity among the people.

Before the situation becomes irredeemable, the otherwise suave and mild-mannered Bhupinder Singh Hooda will have to tighten his grip over the bureaucracy and make it accountable. In this context, it will not be irrelevant to recall what Indira Gandhi had once said at the Congress Working Committee meeting: 'Working of the bureaucracy depends on the person who could get work from it.' Considered to be Haryana’s strongest administrator, the then chief minister Bansi Lal who was also present in the meeting responded saying, 'Bureaucracy is a mare which can safely take you across swollen rivers if the rider holds its reins tightly. But it will drown you in the midstream if you hold its reins loosely.' Indira Gandhi just smiled at his rustic observation.

Notwithstanding these negative happenings which have tarnished his government’s image, Bhupinder Singh Hooda can draw solace from two developments. One is the relative calm that has descended on the inner-party squabbles of the ruling party. Call it his tactful handling or the central leadership’s intervention, the critical voices being raised by some of Hooda’s detractors till three months ago have gone silent. For instance, the former Finance Minister and Rajya Sabha member Birender Singh, Gurgaon MP Rao Inderjit Singh, Haryana ministers Kiran Choudhary and Ajay Singh Yadav, Union minister Kumari Selja and former minister Jagdish Nehra no longer publicly criticise the Hooda government’s functioning.        

The second development from which the ruling party can draw solace is the lackluster functioning of the opposition which is not in the pink of its health. The activities of the main opposition party Om Parkash Chautala-led Indian National Lok Dal are currently confined to the holding of ‘partivartan’ rallies. It is targeting Hooda government on three main issues: poor governance, miserable state of law and order and acute power shortage. What is like to be the impact, if any, of the disproportionate and corruption cases against Chautala, his two sons and some of his loyalists filed by the CBI on the party’s functioning is too early to predict.

The state’s other opposition entity Haryana Janhit Congress-BJP alliance headed by the late chief minister Bhajan Lal’s son Kuldeep Bishnoi has been in hibernation. Thanks to the legacy of Bhajan Lal which he inherited, Bishnoi was elected to Lok Sabha from Hisar held a few months ago. But Bishnoi’s main drawback is that he usually emerges on the political scene only during the time of elections.

The image of HJC’s alliance partner BJP which has already lost much of its support base in Haryana has got a further beating by the crisis that has overtaken the party at national level. Its last week’s Mumbai meeting showed the sharp division among the party’s top national leaders.  

The relative calm within the ruling party and the prevailing state of opposition do not mean that it is going to be a smooth sailing for the Hooda government and the ruling party. Some issues like poor governance, pitiable law and order situation, power shortage, and land acquisition controversies have already started generating anti-incumbency. The trend will gain momentum during the run-up to the 2014 elections. It does not need an astrologer to predict what impact these factors will have on the ruling party‘s electoral prospects if the Hooda government does not start taking remedial measures in time.

It is time for the ruling leadership to introspect.
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