EVEN AS the Punjab and Haryana High Court came down hard on Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Saturday, the BJP leadership is unlikely to act against him. Asked if a replacement was being considered, Anil Jain, BJP general secretary in-charge of Haryana, told The Sunday Express that “there is no such consideration”. Jain had a meeting with party president Amit Shah earlier in the day.
Senior party leaders said the focus, at the moment, is on restoring peace, and preventing any untoward incident on Monday, when the court is set to pronounce its sentence. “Right now, the entire focus is on maintaining peace,” said a party leader. In fact, how the situation is handled on Monday may be the key deciding factor.
“What the BJP president said about Khattar earlier this month, during his three-day visit to the state, stands as of now,” said a senior BJP functionary, reminding that Shah had lauded Khattar at Rohtak. “There is no change in that position as yet,” added the source.
However, a senior party leader indicated that the central party leadership would reveal its mind after the situation returns to normal. “It’s premature to comment. Any comment shall be made after a week or 10 days’ time,” said the leader.
With the BJP’s central leadership facing uncomfortable questions over the situation in Haryana, the state leadership is learnt to have cited the twin challenges of assisting the judicial process and maintaining law and order. It is learnt to have told the central leadership that it tried to avoid a confrontation with Dera followers ahead of the conviction as it wanted to facilitate Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s appearance in court on Friday. It has also told the central leadership that senior officers in charge of law and order had to be present in court at the time of verdict, and that led to initial slippage in controlling the situation.
Asked about the high court’s criticism of the government on Saturday, Jain said, “Political people should comment on political things. We do not comment on the court”. For seven days since the verdict date was announced, the state government ignored warnings and let the crowds gather. Several of its MLAs paid respects to the Dera chief after their election victory. From granting tax exemption to his film to donating to the Dera, the state government and BJP leaders have often played the patron to the Dera.