Haryana violence is Modi's fault for hand-picking RSS stooge Khattar as chief minister
Even a hare-brained swamy would have known instinctively what was coming Ram Rahim's way.
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This, Mr Prime Minister, is the folly of picking handpicked attendants of the RSS and parachuting them into the party; and then allowing them to masquerade as chief ministers.
How the dream of fraternity with a spurious god man can turn into a nightmare of servility is a lesson one needs to learn from the Haryana government which had earlier fanned the Jat agitation in a similar fashion.
That the simmering fires could reach the national capital region did not even strike the perceptive prime minister for whom the violence must have been like a familiar echo from a distant past when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.
It is difficult to accept that the Centre could not make sense of the situation on the ground; perhaps it was overweeningly confident that the state government would control the backlash in Panchkula; and it was not unduly worried about the possible "eruptions" in the sensitive border state of Punjab that is back in the clutches of the Congress.
Like the rest of us, Prime Minister Narendra Modi must be feeling diminished; unless of course he is still trying to comprehend the enormity of what happened; sure, this is a moment of collective mourning and reflection, but it is also one of righteous outrage. We were so quick to take preemptive action in Doklam but tended to be casual bystanders when citizens ran amok and made bonfire of public assets in our own backyard.
We are stranded with a state government that has as much spunk as a jellyfish. Photo: Reuters
Unless, of course, we are stranded with a state government that has as much spunk as a jellyfish.
Such is its veneration of a spurious baba that the ML Khattar government kept an inevitable riot situation neatly gift wrapped in Panchkula for three days — to be unravelled on the day of the verdict — smug in the belief that the "almighty" State could make a forceful intervention at a time of its choosing.
Dogged by a bad press in the recent days — an embarrassing stalking incident in Chandigarh, a bawling incident involving a local BJP overlord and an ambulance, the ham handed handling of the Jat stir, etc — the Khattar government was perhaps trying to be too clever by half in its rather foolish attempt to redeem the party.
But it clearly overplayed its hand — which was more than apparent with the authorities in no tearing hurry to check the streaming procession into the city, but in a bigger rush to accommodate the Dera crowd.
However, the best laid plans can go awry and the end result was not as scripted: the state government landed at the doorstep of the mortuary keeping a count of the corpses of hapless Dera followers who turned marauders, possibly provoked by a media that was baying for the arrest of their rapist baba.
Even a hare-brained swamy would have known instinctively what was coming Ram Rahim's way — a conviction, which would be followed by a backlash. With a salivating media on the prowl, the state government allowed the kind of police build up in the run up to the verdict that we did not even witness when Kasab was executed or when Nirbhaya's killers were hanged: choppers keeping surveillance, the city of Panchkula swarming with gun totting policemen, army platoons on the standby.
At the same time, the cavalier state government allowed the followers of the comical rock star to sneak into the city, with the men in khaki burying their heads in sand — either in obeisance or in compliance; further, they were chivalrously chaperoned into the open spaces of Panchkula and virtually requested to wait for all hell to break loose after the conviction.
This was nothing short of political collusion in a brazen attempt by Ram Rahim to intimidate the judiciary. A dead give away was the splendour with which his cavalcade streamed into Panchkuka from Sirsa — a two-hour journey by road — with the baba merrily having breakfast and even relieving himself en route; the state government, meanwhile, conveniently covered itself with the fig leaf of a "clerical mistake" that prevented it from invoking but not enforcing Section 144 with full force — the absurd ban was reportedly clamped only on firearms, not on congregations.
But then absurdity is the defining feature of this administration — a brilliant example of which was the unsavoury sight of Haryana policemen caught on camera retreating, even as Ram Rahim supporters advanced menacingly.
Advisories from from Punjab and Haryana on incendiary and highly combustible material like petrol and diesel being stored on rooftops were simply disregarded; nor were there any meaningful preventive arrests. The State merely stood on the sidelines and religiously video graphed the "Tamasha", as if to fill the scrapbook of a government that cannot govern.
Haryana's Advocate General also had the cheek to inform the court that the state government has two handy plans to address both the conviction of the dera head and his acquittal.
Once upon a time, by an uncanny coincidence, BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh had given a similar heartfelt assurance to the Supreme Court — that he would take steps to prevent the Babri Masjid's demolition! The rest is history.
Kalyan Singh may have got away with it but Khattar will find the Punjab and Haryana High Court a hard nut to crack. The court responded with scathing strictures on Saturday blaming the political establishment for acts of commission and omission that "allowed the city of Panchkula to burn for political gains".
With the clamour for Khattar's sack touching a crescendo, the resignation of railway minister Suresh Prabhu may not be the only one on PM Modi's table by end of the day. At least Rajnath Singh's prophetic statement at the height of the Lalit Modi saga will be put to test: That no one resigns in the BJP government.