Manohar Lal Khattar: Why Jats feel betrayed and let down

When a Punjabi was announced the CM of Haryana, many Jats felt they had been played. It is now invoking in them the missing Jat pride.

 |  3-minute read |   03-11-2014
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As the victory procession of BJP Rohtak candidate Manish Grover snaked its way through the by-lanes of Rohtak, which up until now were marked with sworn allegiance to former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, there were many who looked shifty-eyed. The shifty eyes began tearing up when the procession chose to stop in front of Hooda's house and indulge in more than half-hour of orchestrated celebrations.

Many hearts in Haryana were wracked with guilt when pictures of a teary Hooda tendering in his resignation were splashed across leading dailies. That guilt very quickly turned to anger when a state that changed the fortunes of a party, Bharatiya Janta Party, from four to 47 seats was awarded with a Punjabi CM former RSS pracharak Manohar Lal Khattar. The irony was not lost on anyone, not even Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who was sure he had done enough for his Jat brothers to hold onto the Jat vote. Most certainly not the Jats, they knew somewhere in their heart of hearts that they had probably been played.

As voting trends started to emerge on counting day, it had become clear that the Jat vote had been split more in areas which up until now were sworn to Hooda. Few can explain how BJP candidate Manish Grover won in Hooda's bastion Rohtak, a city which still sings paeans of the development that Hooda brought. More miraculous because Grover had thrice over lost to a Congress candidate here.

But people were most surprised that the BJP won from Rohtak albeit with a Punjabi candidate. Many were also surprised that the much-hyped, with not even a single political win, BJP leader Captain Abhimanyu from Narnaund, also won. His name was floated by none other than BJP national president Amit Shah as one of the top contenders for the chief minister post. So when Khattar’s name was announced, there was a massive sense of betrayal felt by the Jats, besides it wasn't easy to live with the tag of being called deserter by those few who had stuck with Hooda.

Haryana's political history stands testimony to the fact that the Jats have given the state more chief ministers than the non-Jats, but a Punjabi as the chief minister is not what the state is used to. The last time Haryana had a non-Jat CM was 18 years ago. The BJP's decision to announce a non-Jat CM could stem from the fact that its win constituted a larger chunk of non-Jat votes but a decision that has completely upset the caste metrics in the state. Jats are the most influential community in Haryana and pulling rank over non-Jats in the state is commonplace. A Punjabi CM would never have gone down well and especially not at the cost of letting a blood brother down.

There is an overwhelming sympathy wave for Bhupinder Singh Hooda even today, in urban townships like Rohtak the resentment for Khattar is apparent even so when Khattar originally hails from the same city. Moreover, as you plunge deeper in the rural belt the Jat households who had proudly displayed BJP flags on their houses have quietly pulled them down. Many rue the day they voted for the BJP, most attribute it to “Jat buddhi” while some have taken off their safas to only tie it when they vote for Hooda again... the others, well they credit Khattar, a Punjabi, who helped them find that missing Jat pride.

Writer

Preeti Choudhry Preeti Choudhry @preetichoudhry

The writer is a journalist with India Today TV.

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