The Jind bypoll, slated for January 28, is a high-stakes political battle, with all major parties — the BJP, the Congress, the INLD and the newly formed Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party — fielding candidates. With only a few months to go for the Lok Sabha polls, the contest is also being seen as a crucial referendum on the Haryana BJP government. Dushyant, 30, the youngest ever Member of Parliament (Hisar), split from his family-run Indian National Lok Dal, and formed the JJP. Though a majority of INLD’s MLAs continue to support Dushyant’s uncle and Leader of Opposition Abhay Chautala, Dushyant is confident of JJP’s chances.
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: What do you hope to achieve with your new political outfit?
We want to change the political scenario in the state. From traditional politics, which is based on caste and regional divide, we want to bring in progressive thinking which leads to development of every person in the state. We are among the youngest states in the country. We have around 1.71 crore voters, of which 92 lakh are below the age of 45. On the other hand, we have an economy that is spiralling downwards. Until you give employment to people in your own state or train your own people to go to other states and get employed, you can never rise on the development scale. There has been a lack of infrastructure development. We have been seeing projects pending for decades… They have not even been completed fully till date. On the other hand, the crime ratio of the state, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), has increased in terms of rapes, dacoities and murders. We have got ourselves on the list of the top five states in crime. Crime against women has increased. Traders are not feeling secure today.
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: What is your party’s key priority? What is your action plan now?
The biggest subject in Haryana, currently, is employment for the youth. There are about 17 lakh jobs in Gurgaon, but in how many of those positions are people from Haryana employed in? We have skilled labour. We recently had the Group D examination in the state — 17,000 jobs and 18 lakh applicants. People who have done their Masters, PhD, and cleared the NET examination (National Eligibility Test to determine eligibility for college and university-level lecturership) were applying for jobs of peons, gardeners. This is the state of our country. We have to create employment. The primary focus of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) is to give employment opportunities to the youth and provide security to our citizens. We have to create an atmosphere which helps in the development of our state and makes people feel safe.
We will create a policy for reservation of 75 per cent jobs, even in the private sector, for people of Haryana. It is our first promise. Telangana has done it. Andhra Pradesh has it. Maharashtra has a demand for 80 per cent reservation in private sector for Marathi-speaking people. Our youth is insecure. You see educated youth boarding buses daily to take some exam. But how many people get employment? In the last four years, during the BJP regime, 13,000 people got employed (in Haryana). We have a backlog of over 92,000 jobs that are vacant.
NITIN SHARMA: What led you to split from the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD)?
That is all in the past now. I am looking forward to working for the new organisation — making it strong, working at the booth level and creating new talent for Haryana. We are working on the ‘One Booth-10 Youth’ programme. It will target all 17,000 booths of the state and create a dedicated workforce of 1,71,000 young, talented youth that will lead us in the upcoming Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections.
VARINDER BHATIA: Is the split final? It’s a family-run party and Abhay Chautala has said that his meals still come from your family’s kitchen, three times a day?
Khana toh mere ghar pe hazaron logon ka banta hai (Meals for thousands of people are cooked at my home). My house is a place where food is cooked like langar and somebody who has come to my house has never left it without having a cup of tea or snacks. It is the practice of our family since (former Haryana CM and deputy PM) Chaudhary Devi Lalji’s time. That is something that has carried on for generations and this tradition cannot be changed. If somebody wants food, our house is always open.
JAGDEEP SINGH: Will you join the mahagathbandhan against the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections?
It is too early to say whether we will be part of any alliance because we are at the formation stage. We have given seven posts to people for now. These are necessary for the party to work at the state level. We are working to get the outfit standing in other states too — in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan as well as the Union Territory of Chandigarh. We will expand in the coming days to all the 90 Assembly segments in all the 22 districts of Haryana. That is our primary focus. Later, we will think of an alliance with any political party.
NITIN SHARMA: What kind of role will regional parties play in the 2019 general elections?
The Prime Minister has lost his credibility. There were huge promises made by him, of achche din, of putting Rs 15 lakh into people’s bank accounts, giving employment to two crore youth, loans to small traders… In the recent past, there have been many changes in the country, these concerns things that the nation wants… In April-May, you will see, a force will come into the country that will change the political scenario.
SUKHBIR SIWACH: The Jind bypoll, slated for January 28, will be your first political contest since the formation of the JJP. How do you see your prospects?
We are completely ready to face the challenge even though our party is still in the process of registration and formation. Initially, the Haryana BJP was avoiding the bypoll, but then suddenly they got it announced. Maybe they thought we won’t be able to prepare for it. But, if you see the wave in Jind, it’s totally in favour of the JJP.
Our teams have studied the entire constituency and enumerated issues related to infrastructure, hygiene, agriculture, employment etc. People in Jind have no hope left in the BJP, the Congress or the INLD. They gave all the parties a chance, but no one could provide even basic amenities to the city and villages in the area. Our candidate Digvijay Chautala has received an overwhelming response from people of all sections of the society. We are heading for our first victory after the formation of the JJP.
PARUL: What about employment opportunities for women?
If we are talking about 75 per cent reservation, it cannot be only for the men. It has to be for each and every girl and boy who is educated, who has a degree, who is technically qualified to work in the industry. If we talk about Gurgaon today or the IT sector, you will see more women than men, and that is a change that people never thought would happen.
HINA ROHTAKI: In several parts of Haryana, the ghunghat or the veil system still persists. What are your views regarding the practice?
There have been winds of change. The amount of urbanisation in the state in the past one decade is surprising. The education standards have improved and need to improve further. There has been a 22 per cent increase in people from rural areas moving to urban and semi-urban areas. This change has also changed the mindset of the rural people.
JAGPREET SANDHU: What is your stand on khap panchayats?
There have been khaps that have done very well and there have also been some that have been part of huge controversies. The panchayat system was initially a parallel judicial system. If you think the judicial system is the only way to get justice for every citizen of the country… There are more than three-and-a-half crore cases pending. How many people will get justice?
SOFI AHSAN: Are you then advocating a parallel judicial system such as the khaps?
I come from a village which has about 300-odd marriages within the village. I cannot be in favour of any condition that says you cannot get married… Marriage can be between people of different castes and religions. (Traditionally, the khaps have been against marriages within the same gotra and village). That tradition needs to change… the society is also adapting to the changes. The khaps have also become liberal. There is a khap in Narwana (Jind district) which has changed its rule that one cannot marry within 48 villages it listed. Earlier people from those villages would go to Sonepat, Uttar Pradesh or Rajasthan in search of brides and grooms. So, such changes have been happening and change needs time. In the past one decade, people have started making changes and in future, these changes will happen more frequently. One has to balance things.
SAURABH PRASHAR: But there have been instances of khaps issuing diktats, and ordering people to be killed, like in the 2007 honour killing case of Manoj and Babli.
There is no law which states that khaps can act like dictators or issue such diktats. If you give me evidence… There has been a case or two in which such things have happened, where khaps have issued diktats over inter-caste or inter-village marriages. I am totally against such decisions. But the interesting fact is, that except in that one case, of Manoj and Babli, there is no other case from Haryana. But still when it comes to khaps, everyone in the media associates khaps with Haryana. What happened in that case, I don’t know why such kind of decision was made… One has to study and analyse as to what led to such an act.
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: How do you see the polarisation along caste lines, after the Jat agitation in Haryana, playing out in the elections?
I don’t feel there’s this kind of a divide. I feel that the divide will be between the educated and uneducated, the rural and the urban population. There have been other divides that our state is facing. There is a divide between a student studying in rural areas and a student studying in the city. It is very tough for a rural kid to compete with an urban kid. That’s a divide which nobody sees. Another divide has been created after the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation. It has led to the rich getting richer and people from lower income groups suffering due to the decision. And then people talk about caste, things like Punjabi and non- Punjabi. The Haryana Chief Minister made a statement about being a Punjabi. Does a leader who leads the state, who is the boss of the state, say such a thing? What is his thought process? (In Hindi dailies in Karnal, the home town of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, an ad said: “It is for the first time that Haryana has got a CM from the Punjabi community in 52 years of its inception . If you make a mistake today, you won’t get such chance in the next 60 years. Some people from a particular caste want to remove the Punjabi CM by firing from the Independent candidate’s shoulder. It’s a request from the Punjabi community to openly support the Punjabi CM.” The ad had pictures of Khattar and PM Modi).
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: What is your verdict on the last four years of the Khattar government in Haryana?
I see it as a complete failure. This government cannot say that they have done ‘this’ for society. In the last four years, crime has increased in the state. The unemployment rate in the state has increased and common people and traders have suffered due to the GST and demonetisation. Industries have been moving out of the state. The CM talks about investment of more than Rs 7,000 crore. We have not seen that money come in. This government has caused more divide in the state on caste and religious lines. These have been dark days for the state.