Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is a busy man these days. From serial rapes to allegations of a state government-Robert Vadra-DLF nexus in land deals, the Hooda regime is at the centre of a host of headline grabbing events.
While Hooda’s first tenure (2005-2009) was rather a smooth ride, the second tenure (October 2009 to present) has been rather bumpy.
The chief minister has had his hands full these three years. The list is long — right from the formation of his government a second time, when the Congress could not muster a majority in the assembly on its own, and roping in Independents (including Gopal Kanda) to engineering defections in the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) and facing the repeated violent unrest at the Maruti-Suzuki plant in Manesar.
But that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Growing crime and violence, especially against Dalits, the violent Jat reservation agitations, ministers and legislators getting involved in criminal activities, the series of rapes of minors, Dalit and married women and finally the questionable land deals involving realty giants, Hooda has a lot in his plate.
The visit of Congress president Sonia Gandhi to the Narwana area of Haryana this week to meet the family of a minor Dalit girl who committed suicide after being gang-raped was a clear signal to Hooda to take stock.
Hooda, his ministers, top civil and police officers were present in Sachhakhera when Gandhi visited the village.
None of them, including Hooda, had had any time for the victims and their families even as the state saw 15 alleged rapes in just 31 days.
Gandhi came to Narwana, apparently brought by union Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja, who belongs to Haryana and is also a known Hooda detractor.
Within ruling party circles, the move to bring Gandhi to Haryana is being seen as one aimed at embarrassing Hooda.
Haryana saw 733 rapes in 2011, averaging two rapes a day, but Gandhi had not bothered to visit any of the victims or their families.
This is not the first time Hooda has faced this embarrassment.
Congress general secretary and Sonia Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi had made a surprise visit to Mirchpur village in Hisar district April 29, 2010, just days after members of the upper caste and politically dominant Jat community had set several houses of Dalits on fire. A Dalit man and his handicapped daughter were killed.
During the visit, Rahul Gandhi saw the burnt houses and patiently listened to the grievances of the victim families.
Hooda and his administration came to know of the visit only after Rahul Gandhi had left the scene.
Following this, a letter was sent to Hooda from Sonia Gandhi in which she said the incident was a “matter of shame”.
The Hooda government immediately went into an overdrive to announce compensation and other benefits for the affected Dalit families.
Now, Gandhi family son-in-law Robert Vadra, whose name has been linked by activist Arvind Kejriwal to suspect land deals with DLF, has left Hooda on the defensive.
Hooda, who is known to spend most of his time in New Delhi’s political circles, is mostly dismissive of the controversies around him.
At media briefings, his favourite lines, when he does not want to answer questions, is “this is a hypothetical question” or “yeh kaisa sawaal hai” (what kind of question is this?).
With all that is happening around him, he now has a lot of answering to do.