As fault lines visible, Chautala, Khattar claim BJP-JJP alliance safe
The heat emanating from the farmers' protest is clearly affecting the ruling alliance in Haryana though both constituents — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) — have asserted the government will complete its five-year tenure. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his deputy Dushyant Chautala (JJP) had a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah yesterday. Here's what happened.
Haryana, just like neighboring Punjab, has been tense for months now, a reaction to three farm laws passed in September. The protest has threatened the nearly 15-month-old partnership between BJP and JJP. In October 2019, after Khattar-led BJP failed to get a majority in the 90-member Assembly, it joined hands with JJP, which had won 10 seats. Thereafter, Chautala became the deputy CM.
Now, many within JJP have been pressurizing Chautala to take a tough stand. He spoke with his MLAs yesterday, before his crucial meeting with Shah, at a farmhouse in Delhi. Of the 10 MLAs, eight attended. One of the absentees, Narnaund MLA Ram Kumar Gautam, declared he had nothing to do with the meeting. And Guhla Cheeka MLA Ishwar Singh said he was busy.
"I have nothing to do with the JJP (meeting). Not going to Delhi...the sentiment in Haryana is against the three farm laws and it will cost the ruling BJP-JJP alliance heavily in the coming days," Gautam, known for opposing Chautala, said.
Devender Babli, who attended the meeting, said legislators gave suggestions to Chautala to be conveyed to the central government. He said a law to stop private parties from purchasing produce below MSP should be framed. Julana MLA Amarjeet Dhanda concurred. He said either the laws must be repealed or amendments brought in to ensure farmers don't suffer. "Farmer is our annadata," he added.
The JJP meeting happened before the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict on the matter. Yesterday, the apex court put a stay on the implementation of laws, while also forming a committee to understand farmers' concerns. Later, Chautala, Khattar, BJP State President Om Prakash Dhankar, Haryana Education Minister Kanwar Pal Gujjar, and JJP State President Nishan Singh met Shah. The meeting lasted for an hour.
Addressing media after the meeting, Khattar said his government doesn't face any threats. "Haryana is the epicenter of farmers' agitation so we discussed the law and order in the state. There is no point in speculating about the future of this government, it will complete its term," he added. And Chautala agreed by saying, "The government will last its full five-year term."
The team from Haryana discussed January 26's celebrations with Shah as well. "It's a national festival and everyone understands its importance and the value attached to it," Khattar underscored. To note, the federal government wants SC to stop farmers' tractor march and has filed a plea. Chautala added that each point was discussed and expressed hope that the SC-mandated committee ends the deadlock.
To recall, the farm laws cost BJP one of its oldest allies last year. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) snapped ties with National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in September over the saffron party's "dismissal of genuine concerns." After SC's verdict, Sukhbir Singh Badal said it was a moral defeat for the Centre. However, he, like the farmers, slammed the panel's formation, calling it "a joke."
The committee formed by SC, comprising supporters of #AntiFarmerActs, is a joke unacceptable. It exposes the nexus between Punjab CM @capt_amarinder BJP-led Centre. @Akali_Dal_ also objects to GoI allegations in SC that Khalistani elements have infiltrated the protest. 2/4— Sukhbir Singh Badal (@officeofssbadal) January 12, 2021