Shri Atam Prakash Manchanda, unanimously elected as Haryana'snew state BJP president, started his public life as a RSS swayamsevak in 1952. Later, he became Zila Sanghachalak of Kurukshetra and Kaithal. In 1967, he became secretary and then, general secretary of Karnal Mandal Jana Sangh. In 1990 he became vice-president of Haryana BJP and continued as such for eight years. A lawyer by profession, he was also Additional Advocate General of Haryana at High Court in Chandigarh. He spoke to Amba Charan Vashishth about the political situation in Haryana. Excerpts:
Now that you are BJP president of Haryana, what change do you see in the party?
I find a lot of change. I have tried to rejuvenate and galvanise the party. I have launched a campaign to meet karyakartas and get their feedback. For this purpose, I have undertaken an extensive tour of the state. I have already covered 20 out of 28 districts in the state. I wish to induct more and more youth in BJP. In my meetings and party programmes more and more youth are participating, particularly from rural areas. BJP is getting greater response from rural areas. I have observed that 95 per cent of the workers are from rural areas. I am therefore making strenuous efforts towards increasing the reach of the party in rural areas. I have got the impression that BJP can come to power if serious efforts are made at every level, particularly in the rural areas.
As the state president of the main Opposition Party, how do you see the political scene in the state at present?
At present the political scene in the state is dominated by caste factors. But BJP does not believe in casteism and does not give importance to this factor. Caste alone cannot bring any party to power. It is not the caste but the collective effort of the party workers, its programmes and policies as also its achievements that appeal to the people. On our side we have the benefit of NDA'sachievements under Atalji'spremiership. In every village people recall what Atalji'sgovernment did for the rural areas and the country.
What are the main challenges in the state?
Our challenges are to strengthen the party, widen its reach in the masses and propagate party'sideology, programmes and policies. I feel that the party karyakartas, leaders and office-bearers should work very hard. Besides urban areas, they should also fan out to the rural areas to educate the masses about the failures and anti-people policies of the UPA government at the Centre and the Congress government in Haryana.
Now there is a feeling in the party that with strenuous hard work the BJP can bounce back to a position of reckoning in the state.
As of now, the elections are about three years away. We will take stock of the situation at that time. Ultimately, everything will be decided as per the wishes of the party karyakartas and margdarshan of the national leadership.
Don'tyou think frequent change of alliance partners in the state has resulted in loss of credibility?
Yes, it has. Now we have decided to continue with the efforts to fight future elections on our own on the strength of party cadre. The cadre does have the fighting spirit to achieve the goal. There is no dearth of zeal and commitment in the party.
Haryana was also in the news about SEZs. What is your stand?
As per reports of Haryana government, it has acquired more than 1.3 lakh hectares of land for establishment of SEZs in the state. I am not against SEZs but against the manner in which the policy is being implemented. The establishment of SEZs has created great chaos in the farming community due to the fact that farmers have not been provided protection by the government. The land has been acquired after paying a very low price to the farmers. About 70 per cent of the land so acquired is being utilised for non-industrial purposes, like establishment of malls etc. Moreover, as per the earlier plan, SEZs were to be raised on banjar land. On the contrary, these are being established at highly productive lands, which gave three crops to the farmers. These SEZs have so far failed to generate employment for the youth. On the contrary, they have rendered the farm labour unemployed. The establishment of SEZs is certainly creating independent islands within the state.
What, in your view, are the successes and failures of Hooda government during the last two years?
This government is a total failure. It has failed to check the rise in prices of essential commodities that has made the life of the aam aadmi miserable.
What are your immediate plans for the party?
We have numerous plans to strengthen and energise the party. We have divided the state into different units which have been put in the charge of the office-bearers who will interact with the people and the karyakartas and provide feedback to the party. We are going to make the ward, gram and booth samitis very active and effective to create a strong base for the party. We are involving more and more women, youth and farmers in the party activities.
We plan to launch a massive public awareness campaign in every village to educate the people about the failure of the Congress government to live up to the promises made to the people at the time of the elections. Failures of the government on law and order and price fronts will be highlighted.
People already have a great love and respect for Atalji and other leaders of BJP. They have started comparing the failures of the UPA government with the NDA government when every section of society was benefited.