Haryana: On JJP’s poll promises, Khattar govt looks at ‘middle path’

Varinder Bhatia

Haryana Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya with Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala and Speaker Gian Chand Gupta. (Express photo by Jasbir Malhi/File)

The two top poll promises of the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), a BJP ally led by Haryana's Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala, may not be easy for the state government to implement. Top sources in the government told The Indian Express that both proposals -- 75 per cent reservation for Haryanvis in private establishments and Rs 5100 monthly old age pension -- prima facie appear neither legally tenable nor financially viable.

While the government is looking into the legal and financial implications of both the poll promises, made exclusively by the JJP, it seems keen on finding a "middle way" by way of which a "preference" may be given to Haryanvis in industrial establishments that are receiving grant/subsidy or any other concessions from the state government.

Haryana's Home Minister Anil Vij is chairman of the panel entrusted with the responsibility to form the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) document, which has to be drafted pulling out "common promises" from the manifestos of both the JJP and the BJP. Once approved, the CMP document will act as a vision document for the BJP-JJP alliance government in Haryana for the remaining duration of their tenure.

"I have written to the Advocate General and Finance Department to examine these two things (old age pension and 75 per cent reservation) and asked both the offices to give their opinion. On face of it, neither of the two proposals appear feasible, in the form these are being demanded. Yet, we will wait for the final reports from both the departments and then act accordingly," Anil Vij told The Indian Express.

Haryana's Advocate General, B R Mahajan said, "The government has sent the file to me. I am examining it."

About the 75 per cent reservation for Haryanvis in private establishments, a senior officer told The Indian Express that "granting a blanket reservation in jobs is not legally tenable. A few other states including Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have implemented this kind of a reservation for their local population by amending Industries/Factories Act. At best, a preference can be given to the state's own population, but refusing a job to anybody just because he is an outsider will be a violation of the fundamental rights. Similarly, in Haryana too, at best the industries/factories that are getting some kind of concessions from the government, or are in the PPP mode, may be asked to give preference to local population. But, in certain places and private establishments, such a provision already exists. Yet it needs to be legally examined, if such conditions can be put in with retrospective effect."


Walking a tightrope

More than the feasibility, it is the willingness to implement a poll promise. Considering the way the BJP had been bending over backwards to accept JJP’s demands, the party is now exploring options so that they modify these demands a bit in a manner that it suits both. Financial experts say that the feasibility can be created. But it can only be done, if the government is willing to cut down on other financial aspects, including development expenditure, to meet their socialist promises.

A BJP MLA, privy to the Common Minimum Programme developments, added, "It may result in chaos, especially when thousands of people from other states work in Haryana. Barely two months from now, there are polls in Delhi. Let us assume that Haryana implements this 75 per cent reservation, what will happen if Arvind Kejriwal also announces similar reservation and throw Haryanvis working in Delhi out of their workplaces? That way, each state will start saying the same thing".

Regarding the monthly old age pension, sources in the Finance Department told The Indian Express that there are approximately 15.6 lakh beneficiaries who are availing monthly old age pension of Rs 2000 per month with effect from November 1, 2018. The BJP government, in its first tenure, could barely increase the monthly old age pension from Rs 1,000 in 2014 to Rs 2000 in 2019 by increasing Rs 200 per year.

"In 2018-19, the budgetary provision for the monthly old age pension was Rs 3730.90 crore. Each year, the beneficiaries increase by an average of 25,000-30,000. However, from 2016-17 to 2017-18, over 73,000 new beneficiaries were added taking the total number to 15,12,436 in the year 2018. Even if we assume the same number of beneficiaries, the monthly pension at the rat e of Rs 5100 per month will turn out to be Rs 771 crores, which will cost the state exchequer annually a whopping Rs 9256.10 crore," a senior officer told Indian Express.

The two manifestos of BJP and JJP, together, comprise around 400 poll-promises, out of which about 70 are common. During Vidhan Sabha poll campaign, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had categorically stated that while BJP's manifesto will cost approximately Rs 32,000 crore to the government exchequer and "is doable", while the poll promises made by opposition will cost a whopping Rs 72,000 crore, which was "not practically possible". However, when BJP fell short of majority in the Vidhan Sabha and had to ally with JJP, the Common Minimum Programme came into the picture.

The government has already adopted two of JJP's agendas, including shifting of liquor vends outside villages if Gram Sabhas approve it and setting up examination centres for students within 50 km radius of their native places.