The wrestlers’ protest in Delhi against Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is beginning to shake the foundations of the BJP-led government in Haryana, with the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), its regional partner, under pressure to leave the alliance. Should that happen, the government is certain to fall: the BJP won 40 seats and got the support of Dushyant Chautala’s JJP, which has 10 MLAs in the 90-member Assembly in 2019.
Chautala had broken away from the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), reducing it to just one seat in 2019 as against the 19 it won in 2014. Many political watchers believe that Chautala had no choice but to partner the BJP because his MLAs would have defected to the saffron party if he had not. Chautala was made the Deputy Chief Minister while the BJP’s Manohar Lal Khattar became Chief Minister. Khattar was not in favour of the alliance but agreed after Union Home Minister Amit Shah intervened.
In the last four years, the farmers’ agitation over the three new farm laws and the present wrestlers’ protests over sexual misconduct charges against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh have tested the strength of the alliance. In the first instance, the JJP was seen to be on the side of the BJP, which brought in the farm laws, whereas the Jat community and other rural voters from where the JJP draws its support were dead against the laws. During the year-long agitation, the JJP faced significant backlash from farmers, with protests outside the residences of its MLAs. The withdrawal of the farm laws brought closure to the issue for the time being.
Alliance partners at odds
The protests against Brij Bhushan Singh have split the alliance partners yet again. Supporters of the JJP are standing with the “daughters of Haryana” against the alleged culprit who belongs to Uttar Pradesh and the BJP. Singh attributed political motives to the protest. He said that all the protesting wrestlers belonged to the same family, implying that all of them belonged to Haryana. He alleged that the Congress and other opposition parties were using the athletes for their own political ends.
Interestingly, JJP spokesperson Arvind Bhardwaj appears to agree with this view and he also believes that the issue is not as important as the farmers’ protests among the people. “The Congress support to the protest is quite apparent,” he told Frontline.
Jawahar Yadav, Officer on Special Duty to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, told Frontline that Haryana was proud of its athletes, but this protest had taken on a purely political colour. “If any injustice has been done with them, they will be heard,” he said. “However, they should not have let the opposition take over their protest.”
Both parties seem to be missing the anger on the ground. Satish Tyagi, a Haryana-based veteran journalist, told Frontline, “The protesting wrestlers are also children of farmers. There is anger on the ground against the regional parties such as JJP for not standing with the wrestlers.”
The anger against the BJP among Jats (28 per cent of Haryana’s population) also stems from the Jat Andolan, a movement in 2016 that demanded reservation in government jobs and education. The protests turned violent, leading to loss of life and damage to property. Khattar was the Chief Minister then and his government was criticised for the way it handled the situation, particularly the violence, and the failure to address the demands of the protesters.
- The wrestlers’ protest in Delhi against Wrestling Federation of India chief and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is beginning to shake the foundations of the BJP-led government in Haryana, with the Jannayak Janta Party, its regional partner, under pressure to leave the alliance.
- Supporters of the JJP are standing with the “daughters of Haryana” against the alleged culprit who belongs to Uttar Pradesh and the BJP.
- JJP spokesperson Arvind Bhardwaj believes that the issue is not as important as the farmers’ protests among the people.
Many accused the government of being insensitive to the concerns of the Jat community and of being more focussed on maintaining law and order than on resolving the underlying issues. The government eventually agreed to grant reservation to the community, but only after the protests had subsided. The government’s handling of the situation remains a point of contention in Haryana’s political landscape.
“The Haryana government belongs to the BJP, not the JJP.”Manohar Lal KhattarChief Minister, Haryana
Predictably, the differences between the BJP and the JJP have come out in the open this time. Chief Minister Khattar recently said in a press conference (over the issue of pensions in the State): “The government belongs to the BJP, not the JJP (Haryana me BJP ki sarkar hai, JJP ki nahin).”
While some political experts believe that the JJP, a party that promised to carry on the legacy of Chaudhary Devi Lal (the founder of the INLD), has compromised on its ethics for the sake of power, others say that Chautala is under pressure from the BJP because of several corruption allegations against him.
According to Satish Tyagi, regional parties, including the JJP and the INLD, may get decimated over a period of time and lead to a bipolar contest between the Congress and the BJP. He believes this will lead to a fresh kind of politics in the State. “The youth of Haryana want new forms of politics,” Tyagi opined. “The regional parties are stuck in caste- and dynasty-based politics. They would go to any lengths to please their local vote banks. In all this, real developmental issues get lost. The dependency of people on agriculture and the relevance of farmers’ politics has also drastically reduced now.”
He argued that the Congress too will benefit from the decimation of the regional parties. “The Jat leadership will shift from the hands of regional parties to the Congress’ own biggest Jat leader, Bhupendra Singh Hooda. And the fight ultimately will be between the Jats and non-Jats, the Congress and the BJP,” he said.
Tyagi recalled a press conference by the BJP’s L.K. Advani in 2010 in Haryana’s Palwal, in which he appealed to the public to vote for the Congress if they want but not for the regional parties. “Aap beshak Congress ko vote de do, magar in partiyon ko mat dena,” he had said, according to Tyagi. This is in keeping with the view Advani had articulated, of the BJP and the Congress emerging as the two poles of politics in the country. But it is obvious that the politics of the present has moved on from this formulation.
While doubts have been raised about the JJP’s prospects in Haryana because of its alliance with the BJP, the fact is that it is too early to predict what the future holds for the party. As of now, the alliance is necessary for the government to continue because the BJP will be hard-pressed to find another ally in the State.