Right-wing parties and candidates in Haryana have started lending their original colour to the assembly election campaigns after initially insisting that it would only be centred around the twin agenda of nationalism and the performance of the BJP in the state over the last five years.
Two incidents have caught the attention of the media and the electorate alike in the past few weeks. First, BJP’s candidate from Adampur, TikTok star Sonali Phogat was caught on camera saying that those who did not chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai” are “Pakistanis”. Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena has decided to field a man who had been booked last year for an attempt on JNU student leader Umar Khalid’s life, for elections from Bahadurgarh.
Phogat, whose entry into BJP had created quite a buzz, is facing, among others, Kuldeep Bishnoi, the son of former Congress chief minister of Haryana Bhajan Lal. During a campaign rally at Balsamand village at Adampur in Hisar district, Phogat was heard asking voters if they had come from Pakistan since they were not chanting “Bharat Mata ki Jai” after her.
“Pakistan se aaye ho kya? Pakistani ho kya? Agar Hindustan se aaye ho to ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ bolo (Have you come from Pakistan? Are you Pakistanis? If you are from India chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’),” she was seen telling the voters.
She was then seen telling the gathering, “I feel ashamed that people like you too are Indians, who would not chant ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ for petty politics.” Further, she said that “those who cannot say ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, their vote has no value”.
After she was criticised on social media for the comments, Phogat uploaded an apology. She claimed that she was merely exhorting the youth to show respect to the nation. “I am a daughter of Balsamand. When I said ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ during the rally here, some of the boys present did not repeat it. I asked ‘did you come from Pakistan?’ I apologise if anyone’s feelings are hurt by my saying so,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena’s choice of candidate for the Bahadurgarh seat near Delhi has also raised many eyebrows. The party has given the ticket to Naveen Dalal, who along with one other person was accused of attempting to murder student leader Umar Khalid in New Delhi last year.
Dalal, who proclaims himself to be a ‘gau rakshak‘ (cow vigilante), joined the Sena around six months ago as, according to him, they both shared the same views on “nationalism and cow protection”.
He also told the Indian Express that on the other hand, “BJP and Congress governments don’t have anything to do with farmers, martyrs, cows or the poor. They are just interested in politics.”
Dalal’s entry into the political arena in Haryana has heightened the communal pitch. Though Shiv Sena’s Haryana (south) head, Vikram Yadav, defended his induction into the party by saying that he “has been fighting for issues like cow protection and speaking up against those who raise anti-national slogans,” it is Dala’s criminal record which stands out.
His election affidavit states that he has three criminal cases against him. One of these pertains to an attack on Khalid at the Constitution Club in New Delhi in August 2018. In this case, Dalal and Darwesh Shahput were accused of attempting to shoot Khalid. However, because their gun jammed, Khalid managed to escape.
Following the incident, Dalal released a video saying that the attack was an Independence Day gift to the nation. He was later arrested by the special cell of the Delhi police.
Another case against Dalal pertains to rioting in Bahadurgarh in 2014. The third was filed at Parliament Street police station in New Delhi the same year for walking with a severed cow’s head towards the BJP’s head office.
While the Indian Express report said that Dalal, when contacted, refused to talk about the attack on Khalid, Yadav defended his action by saying that it was his way of displaying his “patriotism”.