The Bharatiya Janata Party propelled to power in Haryana in the 2014 assembly polls and formed the government with an absolute majority for the first time in the state’s history. Since the majority of the legislators, including Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar—a non-Jat– were first timers in the 90-member House (BJP won 47 seats), it took some time for the party to learn the lessons of governance in the state that is dominated by the Jat community. In Haryana’s history, at least 7 out of 10 Chief Ministers had been Jats.
The year 2016 was the year that BJP has been eyeing ever since to launch a major investors’ summit with the tagline – Happening Haryana Global Investors Summit 2016. A first of its kind, the investors’ summit which aims to attract huge investments and job opportunities in the state was planned in the first week of March. However, barely a fortnight before that, an unprecedented violent agitation rocked the state.
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The novice political leadership was left stunned and panic-stricken as a violent Jat reservation agitation erupted across the state on February 18. The four-day long mayhem led to death of 30 men and caused a loss of hundreds of crores of rupees. Curfew had to be imposed in violence-affected areas, the arrmy and paramilitary had to be deployed – the agitation and its aftermath left the state virtually paralysed for nearly 10 days.
Later in the year, a retired DGP Parkash Singh who was entrusted with the responsibility of probing the causes of Jat agitation and lapses in curbing the violence, in his report castigated the officers at the helm of affairs who wilfully let the agitation flare up.
A section of the media also reported about alleged gangrapes of women in Murthal of Sonipat district that allegedly took place during the agitation. The Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo-motu notice of the reports and pulled up the state government. However, even after 10 months of the alleged incident, not a single victim had surfaced while the case remains in the High Court.
As a result of the violent Jat agitation, the government’s grand and extravagant plans to hold investors’ summit in millenium city – Gurgaon– received a major blow. A low-key event was held in March and the investors from across the globe did participate in it, but it failed to achieve its desired purpose. To date, the state government claims, 558 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) have been signed for investment proposals of over Rs. 6.41 lakh crore. The government also claims that it shall provide direct and indirect employment opportunities to over 7.8 lakh people across Haryana. However, the results are yet to be visible on the ground. The PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry and ASSOCHAM had estimated a loss of Rs. 18,000-20,000 crore to industry due to violent Jat agitation across Haryana.
In September CM Khattar chaired a meeting of Haryana Enterprise Promotion Board and directed the concerned officers to facilitate entrepreneurs by offering incentives and the required facilities.
To placate the agitated Jat community, the Haryana government, on March 29, approved the Haryana Backward Classes (Reservation in Services & Admission in Educational Institutions) Bill and notified the Act on May 13. The Bill enlisted Jats, Jat Sikhs, Bishnois, Tyagis and Rors in the freshly sculpted Backward Classes (C) category and made them eligible for 10 per cent reservation in class 3 and 4 and six per cent reservation in class 1 and 2 government jobs.
However, the move did not benefit even a single person f as the Punjab and Haryana High Court on May 26ruled against the Bill and issued a stay order on the government’s decision. While the case is still under litigation in the High Court, the stay on granting reservation to these castes yet continue.
The ruling BJP government had still to fully recover from the violent Jat agitation and the blow to its reservation Bill, when another controversy jolted the government – the Haryana Rajya Sabha polls. In June, an “ink-controversy” marred the Rajya Sabha polls with the Opposition crying foul and accusing the BJP of “misusing the government machinery” and rigging the polls. Votes of 14 Congress MLAs were declared invalid because of a “wrong ink” used to mark their ballots resulting in the defeat of Congress backed candidate RK Anand, a senior advocate of Supreme Court. The BJP-backed candidate Subhash Chandra, a media baron, won.
Already facing flak from the Opposition on alleged “saffronisation” of education in the state since last year, Haryana government still went ahead and introduced a chapter on the Bhagavad Gita in the school curriculum across the state this year. Teachings of various religious leaders along with the Gita were introduced in July in the school curriculum.
As Haryana had been carved out of Punjab on November 1, 1966, the Haryana government planned a set of mega events to celebrate 50 years of the state’s inception. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Golden Jubilee celebrations in Gurgaon during a grand ceremony. But the state government again came under attack from the Opposition since the Prime Minister did not announce anything for the people of the state on the occasion.
Towards the year-end in December, the state government came out with its objective of promoting the holy book Gita. An “International Gita Mahotsav” was announced and a series of events were scheduled for the first week of December. President Pranab Mukherjee was to inaugurate the event on December 6 in Kurukshetra. However, due to the demise of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Decmeber 5, Mukherjee could not attend the event and the state government had to handle it on its own. That’s not how the BJP government in the state wanted to end the year.