Over three years into his tenure as Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar has drawn flak from all quarters for the poor handling of sensitive issues in Haryana. With the recent spate of reports putting the spotlight back on his tall claims of governance, a look at the times he was found floundering.
Over three years since he assumed office as the Chief Minister of Haryana, 63-year-old Manohar Lal Khattar’s stint has been far from the smooth sail that he may have wished for. In a state that thrives on its potential for investments, controversies of the kind that this government has faced in the past few years certainly do not bode well for its image. Under Khattar, the state’s slogan of “Happening Haryana” has lived up to its name alright, but for all the wrong reasons. The only takeaways that the Khattar government has to offer for its rule so far are “good governance” and being “corruption-free”. While the former takes a leaf out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan, the latter appears true because it is seen in stark contrast to the previous government and the scams that saw being unfolded under the Bhupinder Hooda government.
Incidents of violence have given the Khattar government a bad name in particular. More importantly, it has sullied the clean image that Khattar enjoyed, something that saw him find favour with the BJP’s central leadership and catapulted him as the party’s CM pick. While Khattar’s reputation as an honest individual has survived, his image as an effective leader has taken some serious drubbing. Several incidents that the state has witnessed under his watch serve as a testament to his abject failure as a Chief Minister capable of performing under duress. In his tenure as CM, Khattar has been seen as a leader who has helplessly watched over mobs going on a rampage, state property being destroyed and the lives of the people being put at risk.
Here are 5 incidents that prove Manohar Khattar’s inept handling of tough situations:
Five incidents of rape reported within a week from different parts of the state with no major breakthrough in any of the cases have drawn severe flak for the Khattar government. While it took the Chief Minister four days to break his silence, another case surfaced just a day later. In more embarrassment for the government, a 20-year-old woman in Haryana’s Fatehabad district was allegedly raped at her village. The incident comes on the back of similar cases reported within a matter of days.
On Tuesday, a three-year-old girl was allegedly raped in Hisar. On Saturday, a 15-year-old girl’s half-naked body was found near the bank of a canal in a village in Jind district after she had gone missing last Tuesday from her village in Kurukshetra district. The girl was brutally assaulted, her private parts mutilated and some of the vital organs ruptured, police said. Last week, another 11-year-old girl was raped and killed in Panipat. On Saturday, a 23-year-old woman was allegedly abducted and gang-raped in a moving car in Old Faridabad. On Saturday itself, a 48-year-old man allegedly sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl and inserted a stick into her private parts in Pinjor.
If the incidents were not disturbing enough themselves, the government’s response to these crimes was even more shocking. On Wednesday, a top cop in Haryana sought to offer the most disgusting generalisation of a crime as heinous as rape. “It (rape) is part of society. Such incidents have been taking place forever,” he said on camera, adding that the job of the police was to “investigate, catch criminals and prove things” and “we’re leaving no stone unturned”. There is no word of any action against the official for his remarks.
Perhaps among the biggest blots on Khattar’s tenure, August 25, 2017, saw followers of Dera Sacha Sauda run rampage in Panchkula just minutes after the sect’s controversial leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted by a court for the rape and sexual exploitation of two female disciples in 2002. Over 30 people lost their lives in the widespread violence and nearly 250 others were left injured.
The incident drew severe criticism for the Khattar government for the complete breakdown of law and order. The criticism did not end there. News reports for over a week ahead of the verdict were replete with how the controversial sect’s followers were being mobilised to the site of hearing, with clear indications that violence was in the offing. However, the police stood mute spectators. The Army had to be moved in to vacate the court’s vicinity at midnight, hours before the hearing.
Jat quota agitation
In February 2016, a similar incident rocked the state when a group of Jat agitators virtually bringing the state to ransom for over 10 days in demand for reservations in education and jobs. Protesters laid siege to major highways and rail routes connecting the state, disrupting the supply of essential commodities to several districts of the state. The agitation also saw water supply to Delhi being affected from Haryana’s Munak canal.
The following days saw the agitation take a violent turn, eventually leading to the loss of over 30 lives and loss of public property worth around Rs 60 crore. The incident drew sharp reactions over the government succumbing to mob pressure and its failure in acting against the perpetrators.
Action against Rampal
At least six people, including five women and an infant, were killed in the standoff between the Haryana police and supporters of Satguru Rampal, a self-styled godman and leader of the religious sect titled Kabir Panth at the Satlok Ashram in Hisar. Rampal skipped court proceedings 42 times, following which the court ordered the police to present him. On November 9, Haryana Police finally made its way to Rampal’s Ashram in Hisar to arrest him but found that his followers had formed a human chain around the Ashram to prevent the cops from detaining their ‘Guru’.
After a week of trying to negotiate with the followers, cops clashed with them and entered the Ashram. While Rampal had managed to flee the corpses of five women and an 18-month-old baby was found inside. It was finally by November 19 that the police finally arrested Rampal along with 492 of his followers. The Khattar government was criticised again for its failure to control the situation from spiralling out of control. Even the central government was reportedly unhappy with the state government over its poor handling of the issue.
In August last year, just as the Khattar-led government was celebrating its 1,000 days of “successful governance”, a midnight stalking incident left the BJP red-faced. Vikas Barala, son of influential Haryana BJP MLA Subhash Barala, got involved in an incident of alleged stalking.
Barala, accompanied by his friend Ashish Kumar allegedly chased Varnika Kundu, a disc jockey, when she was driving back to her Panchkula home from Sector 9 in Chandigarh on August 4 night. The victim is the daughter of Haryana-cadre IAS officer Virender Singh Kundu. Khattar’s reluctance to act against his father for the fault of his son was seen as the CM attempting to shield his staunch loyalist. The incident led to widespread public outrage and dented Khattar’s image ahead of the 2019 elections.