Watershed year for Haryana; noteworthy for Punjab

Watershed year for Haryana; noteworthy for Punjab

For the Jat dominated Haryana, 2014 was a watershed year. Fresh from sweeping the Lok Sabha polls in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), riding on the Modi mantra of change and development, secured an absolute majority in the Assembly elections in September.

For a party considered irrelevant in Haryana’s politics, this was a significant result, which reinforced its faith in the Modi magic that came under questioning after a string of bypoll losses in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Such was the BJP’s dominance in the polls that besides the expected rout of the two-term Congress government, it pushed other parties like the HJC and the INLD to the sidelines.

The BJP’s sweep rendered the Om Prakash Chautala-led INLD politically insignificant, further compounding its woes as its top leadership, including former chief minister O P Chautala, spends time in prison in teachers’ recruitment scam.

First-time MLA ML Khattar became the state’s chief minister, largely on the basis of his strong RSS background and proximity to Prime Minister Modi.

However, the BJP’s campaign assurance that it would make Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra account for the illegal land deals in the state rang hollow, as the party did little more than releasing statements once in government.

The party’s first major challenge in government came in the form of a standoff between police and the supporters of self-styled godman Rampal, which only exposed its inexperience and lack of political will to act.

The standoff, which continued for a fortnight between police and the godman’s armed militia, ended in bloodshed with six deaths and a hundred injuries.

The episode brought to light wrongdoings carried out with impunity behind the confines of the ashram, while also underscoring the noxious mix of politics and spirituality in the state with the Deras or religious sects flexing their muscles with newfound political influence.

Earlier, the state was on the brink of violence in the run up to the polls as the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government enacted a law de-linking the administration of the Sikh shrines in the state from the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC).

Discontentment grew as the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) protested against the Act. Amidst obvious political overtones of the move, it did not help Hooda or the Congress in the state.

Though the political inroads the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made into Punjab during the Lok Sabha polls was no comparison to the BJP’s landslide, the party captured the imagination of the voters with its fresh and clean image.

It was in Punjab, not in Delhi, the AAP won four LS seats, prompting the ruling SAD-BJP and the Congress to focus on  rampant drug abuse.

The state wasted no time in cracking down on drug peddlers, dismantling supply lines and seizing heroin in record quantities.  

The police seized more than 275 kilograms of heroin and made 10,000 arrests. They also exposed Rs 6,000 crore synthetic drug cartel, putting the much needed urgency into the issue that long plagued the state. However, the AAP lost all the ground it gained towards the end of the year, losing in the byelections.

The state was also rocked by  botched cataract surgeries organised by an NGO, which resulted in vision loss for 20 persons.

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