“IS GUSSE ko kabhi mat bhoolna. humne Rohtak ko jalte hue dekha hai. Kya main bhool sakta hoon Pathania School ki jalti hui busein (Don’t ever forget this anger. We have seen Rohtak burning. I can’t forget burning buses of Pathania School),” says Om Prakash Dhankar, a minister in Haryana BJP government, while referring to the widespread violence that took place during Jat reservation agitation in February 2016. Rohtak was the epicentre of the violence that spread across the state.
Dhankar was addressing an election meeting held in support of BJP’s Mayoral candidate Manmohan Goyal and 22 other ward councilors for civic body polls scheduled on December 16. Before end of the election campaign today evening, at least two ministers – Dhankar and Manish Grover – indirectly blamed the Congressmen for the 2016 incidents while Congress hit back on BJP leaders blaming them for “spreading casteism” ahead of polls and said “politics of hate won’t pay off in the poll battle.”
In the presence of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Dhankar said, “Ek candidate ka nishan bus ka hai aur usake pichhe un logon ki photo hai jinhon basen jalane ka aadesh diya tha. Aapka hath kampana chahiye us bus ki taraf jate hua jinhone bachhon ke school jane wali baso ko jalaya tha. Aapka 16 tareekh ko vo krodh niklana chahiye (Bus is election symbol of a candidate. At the back of this bus, there are photos of those who had ordered to burn the buses. Your hands should tremble when going to towards that bus. (they) had got burnt the school buses of children. Your anger should come out on December 16),” said Dhankar, who belongs to Jat community.
Another Cabinet minister and Rohtak MLA Manish Grover also said, “That day of 2016 should not be forgotten when the democracy was murdered. houses and shops were set on fire. They (political opponents) could not digest their defeat in just one Vidhan Sabha poll.”
Bus is poll symbol of Independent mayoral candidate Sita Ram Sachdeva, who enjoys the support of former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Sachdeva’s election inchagre Virender Sachdeva hit back alleging that those who were instrumental for the 2016 riots are now levelling such allegations. “Why the Chief Minister did not go to meet the people after the violence? Why are they giving the slogans of castism now?” Sachdeva told The Indian Express that today he has lodged a complaint to the state election commission against Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar for allegedly seeking votes in the name of caste in Karnal on Thursday.
With Hooda himself camping in the town in support of Sachdeva, Khattar Friday met voters personally apart from holding a public meeting. However, Hooda wondered why the Chief Minister campaigning for the civic body polls. “I did not campaign for the civic body polls when I was Chief Minister. Even this time I did not go anywhere,” claimed Hooda, whose son Deepender Singh Hooda is MP from Rohtak.
In fact, Rohtak is witnessing a complex poll battle this time in term of caste equations. Hooda has offered support to independent candidate Sita Ram Sachdeva, who is from Punjabi community which has about 75,000 voters in Rohtak Municipal Corporation. BJP which has been enjoying support of Punjab voters has fielded Manmohan Goyal, who belongs to Aggarwal community which has about 20,000 votes.
As many as 56,000 voters belong to Jat community out of total 2.79 lakh voters here. Sachdeva supporter believe that they would get maximum votes from Punjabis and Jats apart from rural areas “because of support of Hooda”.
However, local BJP leaders believe that INLD-BSP alliance candidate Sanchit Nandal will get the lion’s share from the Jat voters. BJP leaders claim that they would get almost half of the Punjabi voters as local MLA Manish Grover and the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar are from this community. They also claim the major chunk from backward classes’ votes.