Ahead of the Lok Sabha election in Haryana on 12 May, former Union steel minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Birender Singh spoke about the party’s election campaign. There are 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana, out of which seven are with the BJP, two with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and one with the Congress. The state will go to polls in the sixth phase on 12 May. Edited excerpts:
How has the BJP fared in its maiden term in the state?
The message is clear: Total transformation of our governance system. We brought transparency. People believe that if the BJP had not been in power, they would not have got a chance for selection in jobs. We ensured development in every corner of the state, and not just some selected constituencies.
Is the BJP eyeing the non-Jat community to win like it did in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls?
I’m a Jat, and I can tell you that there is no such community as non-Jat. There are 36 biradiri in the state. It is a wrong interpretation of the caste combination. Jats comprise one-fourth of the state’s total population. The composition of our villages is such that one caste cannot be alienated. If there is a village of Rajputs, then it will have at least 50% belonging to other castes. The ‘Modi factor’ has smashed all kinds of considerations of caste, regional and religious appeals.
How do you explain the state government’s failure in maintaining law and order?
Things have gone astray and naturally lives were lost. But, such acts of violence are not a regular phenomenon in Haryana. It is a state where the general feeling among people is that we are not less than anybody else. There cannot be any established gangs of goondas. But sometimes, incidents happen on the spur of the moment. Both the Sirsa case and Jat agitation erupted suddenly. If you re-assess the violence, which erupted during Ram Rahim’s case two years ago, you’ll see that there has not been a single instance of violence after that.
How do you view Congress’ bid to revive itself in Haryana?
Congress has been a movement. Aur movement kabhi bhi khadiho sakti hai. At present, things are slipping away from Congress. In terms of votes, it is a pauper. But it must behave, and it has the responsibility to behave, because it is a national party. If Congress wants to revive, then it has to realize its mistakes. Till now, its leaders have not. In Haryana, they have not been able to resolve their differences. There are already five factions and, if I had continued in the party, mine would be the sixth. If there is one office in democracy which has gone astray, it is the CM’s office. Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and those before him enjoyed absolute power in their time.
How has the recent split in the opposition INLD impacted BJP’s winning prospects?
We are heading for a landslide victory. But if at all there is a contest, it will be on 2-3 seats between the Congress and BJP. INLD has lost. The children (referring to Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala) took a wrong decision. The young man was in a hurry to become the CM. I have been waiting since last 25 years to become the CM, and this young chap thinks he can be the CM in six months?
What has the government done to ease the agrarian crisis?
Previous state governments had launched some flagship schemes for farmers to increase agricultural productivity. But Prime Minister Modi gave a separate identity to the farmer and decided to give ₹6,000 to a farmer who owns less than five acres of land. More than 85% of farmers in our country do not possess more than two hectares of land; so the benefit goes to 12 crore farmers. We are supporting that farmer, no matter what the agriculture production.
Despite PM Modi’s flagship campaign of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, crimes against women have not declined in the state. Why so?
The sex ratio has improved dramatically. This change has come in the last four years. Most of the girls in sports are from Haryana. We are no longer a closed society. If girls go for wrestling, they wear the same code of dress, but if they are to perform in the traditional way, then they are in ghoonghat. I do not agree that our state is stereotyped and conservative. Our girls are competitive to get into police and the entire family supports. Just like a kamao poot (earning son), a kamao putri (earning daughter) is treated with respect.
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