Gurugram: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar appeared to have his eyes on the votes of the state’s Purvanchali migrants as he joined them to celebrate Chhath Puja Sunday and announced the construction of three ghats and a suryamandir in the state.
Chhath Puja, centred on Sun worship performed at ghats, is among the most important festivals for Purvanchalis, people hailing from the Bhojpuri-speaking areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar.
Community estimates suggest there are around 40 lakh Purvanchalis in Haryana, with approximately one-fourth registered as voters.
However, political analysts noted that Khattar’s Purvanchal outreach seemed to be a paradox in that his government has been trying to reserve 75 percent of private jobs (offering a monthly salary of up to Rs 30,000) for local youths.
The quota, announced in 2021 in line with BJP ally Jannayak Janta Party’s campaign promise, was struck down by the Punjab and Haryana High Court earlier this month, but Deputy CM Dushyant Singh Chautala of the JJP has said they will appeal the order in the Supreme Court.
Speaking to ThePrint, political analyst Pawan Kumar Bansal said people from Purvanchal were now settled in large numbers in Haryana, and Khattar’s outreach was clearly aimed at wooing them ahead of next year’s elections — Lok Sabha and the 2024 Haryana assembly polls.
He said Khattar seems to have taken a cue from Arvind Kejriwal, who “enjoys immense support among migrants in Delhi”, and whose Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is looking to contest elections in Haryana again next year.
“However, when we look at the law for a 75 percent quota for local residents in the private sector, passed by the BJP-JJP government in November 2021 under the pressure of deputy CM Dushyant Chautala, Khattar’s outreach looks paradoxical because, had the high court not quashed the law, people from Purvanchal would have suffered,” he said.
“Even now, the day Khattar participated in Chhath Puja, his deputy CM told mediapersons that the government would be approaching the Supreme Court against the HC judgment,” said Bansal.
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What Khattar said at the event
Khattar addressed the Chhath Puja festivities with Delhi BJP MP Manoj Tiwari and Karnal MP Sanjay Bhatia.
He said the festival was celebrated at nearly 300 locations in the state, and over 5 lakh people participated in the festivities.
Lauding the contribution of “brothers and sisters from Purvanchal”, he said they had made an immense contribution to the development of Haryana.
“If Haryana has witnessed a huge growth in the field of industry and agriculture, it is much because of the hard work, diligence and expertise of the people from Purvanchal who worked tirelessly day and night to contribute towards the state’s growth story,” said Khattar.
He also announced the construction of three ghats in Panipat at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore, and a suryamandir between two canals at Mahrana village of Panipat on land to be given by the government.
Khattar also announced a discretionary grant of Rs 21 lakh for temple construction.
Speaking at the event, Tiwari said no previous government in Haryana had ever thought of the concerns of the Purvanchal people residing in the state and thanked Khattar for his gesture.
Khattar was felicitated by 30 Purvanchal associations at the ceremony.
‘Can’t be ignored’
Paras Nath Singh, convenor of the Purvanchal Parivaar Samvanya Samiti (Purvanchal Families Coordination Committee), Panipat, said the community constituted a bloc in Haryana that could not be ignored.
“Today, our population in Haryana is not less than 40 lakh, and out of these, at least 10 lakh have registered themselves as voters,” he added. “Our members are in large numbers in Panipat and Faridabad. Besides the two districts, our members are present in Gurugram, Jhajjar, Rohtak, Ambala, Panchkula and several other districts. Members of our community have contributed a lot to the growth of the state.”
Khattar, he said, “is the first chief minister of Haryana to have organised a state-level function to mark Chhath Puja.
“Before this, former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda did attend our Durga Puja event, but he was not the CM then,” he added.
Asked to comment on the quota law, Singh said it was nothing but “an agenda of the government”.
“We knew from the very beginning that the law would not survive judicial scrutiny,” he added.
Madan Singh ‘Master’, convenor of the Purvanchal Kalyan Sangh (Purvanchal welfare group), said Khattar’s gesture was fine, “but people from Purvanchal expect his government to give them representation in governance”.
“Unless our people have a voice in the assembly and in municipal corporations, the aspirations of our people won’t be addressed properly,” added ‘Master’, who came to Panipat as a worker in 1991 and now runs his own handloom industry in the town (technicians in the handloom industry get the sobriquet ‘master’, he said, explaining his name).
“In August 2021, the state government nominated me as a councillor for the Panipat Municipal Corporation,” he added. “But within days, I was dropped and another person was nominated in my place under pressure from a local leader. I am still referred to as a 13-day councillor,” said Master.
He said the Purvanchal samaj wants the BJP to either assign the Panipat City or Panipat Rural assembly seat to a member of the community.
“We have nearly 2 lakh Purvanchalis in Panipat. The actual population is much more as many of them are not registered as voters in Haryana,” he added.
“Go to any industry in Panipat, you will find that, against 1 or 2 owners and 3 to 4 managers of the unit, there will be 40 to 50 people from Purvanchal who are workers there,” said ‘Master’.
He was also dismissive of the quota law, saying such legislation doesn’t work.
“What happened in West Bengal, where they had a 25 percent quota for local residents? The industry got ruined because of trade unions. Even in Haryana, the industries where they have five local workers among 50 migrants, the owners face issues of political interference and local leaders,” Master added.
He said the Purvanchal community has also been demanding a colony for themselves, and an additional piece of land near the proposed suryamandir for a creche to help the large number of Purvanchali women juggling work and motherhood.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
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