‘PM said things against Nitish… I was called monkey. These are political statements… not a commitment’

Haryana Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala with Resident Editor (Punjab, Haryana & Himachal Pradesh) Manraj Grewal Sharma in The Indian Express newsroom in Chandigarh. Jaipal Singh

The 31-year-old Dushyant Chautala led the 11-month-old Jannayak Janata Party to victory in 10 seats in the Haryana Assembly elections recently, and showed political astuteness by allying with the BJP and securing the post of Deputy Chief Minister for himself. With his win from Hisar Lok Sabha seat last time, he had become the youngest MP ever. Last year, the Uchana Kalan MLA split from his family-run Indian National Lok Dal and formed the JJP. Recently, Chautala told the Assembly that the state government would bring a Bill in the next session of the House to provide 75% reservation for Haryana residents — one of the JJP’s main poll promises

MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: The 10 seats that you won in the Haryana Assembly elections were on a mandate against the BJP. By allying with the party, haven’t you betrayed those who voted for you?

The mandate was not only against the BJP but the Congress too. Going with the Congress or the BJP... It was the same call for us. Our agenda was to establish a stable government in the state. With the Congress, we could not have made a stable government because they did not have the numbers. We would have been short by five (MLAs).

We have agreed on a Common Minimum Programme with the BJP, and a committee with two MLAs, one from each party, has been set up for it... Our priority is 75 per cent reservation in private jobs. A Bill shall be introduced in the next Vidhan Sabha session. Before that, my target is to get it passed through the Cabinet as an ordinance so that we can have 75 per cent employment in every corner of the state.

“Yes, paddy husk is burnt... We haven’t taken steps to reuse the waste. (Waste to energy) power plants have been set up in Punjab, Rajasthan. We need it in Haryana. There has to be a policy change," Chautala said.

MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: There is a lot of anger amongst youngsters about the lack of jobs.

Apart from Tripura, which is a very small state, we (Haryana) have the largest number of unemployed (people). I have mooted 75 per cent quota for locals in jobs in the state. Unemployment is also impacting the Goods and Services Tax returns. Nobody has ever reported a story on revenue losses due to the GST. It is because the GST is collected at the base where (the product) is consumed and not at the place where it is produced. Today, most of the GST collection is from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, but the net losers are Haryana, Punjab and states such as Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, which are producing more than they are consuming. If we do not create employment within the state, consumption will not be much. If someone from outside finds employment in Haryana, they take revenue back to their state, and the consumption will happen there. It is this loss (of revenue) that we are facing. Our state is facing a crisis of more than Rs 1,500 crore per annum — these are my own figures and not the government’s. Recovery will happen when we begin to employ people of our own state in private companies.

VARINDER BHATIA: Can you elaborate on the Common Minimum Programme agreed upon between the Jannayak Janata Party and the BJP? 

I have analysed the BJP’s manifesto, and about 60 per cent of the points are common with our manifesto. We will have people from the manifesto committee and bureaucracy implement the policies as soon as possible. We have to analyse and get the best results out of both manifestos. There are things in the BJP manifesto which can be worked out with the JJP manifesto. One of their points is to increase (old-age) pension. We want it to be Rs 5,100. So we have to come to a mutual conclusion over the amount.

When I analysed the (plan to) increase salaries of sarpanch and zila parishad members, from Rs 3,000 to Rs 8,000, and Rs 1,600 to Rs 4,000, respectively, it showed a budget increase of Rs 70 crore per annum and that is not a big number for the government. The government can spend the amount to streamline the panchayati raj system. A sarpanch spends Rs 3,000 on one day’s travel to Chandigarh, because there are four tolls on the way. There is expenditure on fuel and food. How can he travel twice or thrice a month to Chandigarh on a salary of Rs 3,000? A policy change is needed. We have to work on the idea.

Read | Chautala family united, parties are different, says Dushyant

Caricature by Unny

VARINDER BHATIA: How will you generate funds for providing pension of Rs 5,100 per month?

We have to see... If we ensure 75 per cent reservation in employment for our own people, our consumption will increase, and our budget will also increase by approximately Rs 9,000 crore through GST collection. Taking some Rs 800 (crore) out of the Rs 9,000 crore is what? It’s not even 10 per cent. Can’t we invest that 10 per cent into development of people who require help, especially people who are in their old age.

CHAHAT RANA: In the Common Minimum Programme, what do you have for women of the state?

Our agenda is to provide support for mothers and their children. If you streamline the system and deposit an X amount into the account of mothers, I think it will become much easier for them to pay for the education of their children and other facilities, instead of running around departments (to get the money). As an MP, I have seen mothers seek funds for treatment of their children, or for their admissions, and complain about running between departments. Streamlining the system will help everybody. The biggest issue for a mother, till her children are 15 years of age, is to find ways to support them. And, if it is a single mother, the burden on her is double.

KANCHAN VASDEV: You sought votes promising to bring about change. What is that change in Haryana now?

I am in power as the Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana. Isn’t that a change?

SOFI AHSAN: But you proposed a new system and joined the old one...

I will continue to fight against issues such as the medical scam (alleged wrongdoings in the purchase of medicines, equipment etc). People voted for us, against the Congress and BJP. There has been corruption in the past five years. I can assure you that there will be action taken against those involved in the SC/ST scholarship scam, mining scam, the medical scam... There has to be change in the way things are run... We will work together.

MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: In Haryana, whenever a coalition government has been in power, the bigger party eats into the smaller party. Do you fear that?

If you see what happened earlier, when Bansi Lalji (of the Haryana Vikas Party) and the BJP were in alliance or when (Om Prakash) Chautalaji and the BJP were in alliance... the BJP, which was a minor partner in the alliance with the INLD and Bansi Lalji, is a major partner today. They came to power with full majority in 2014.

It has been a challenge for us because we had to create the party in December 2018, get it registered in April and then we had to face three elections, including the bypolls. But see the increase in the people’s support. In the Lok Sabha elections, we got about 6 per cent of the votes and today we are at15 per cent. We had eight lakh votes and now we have 18 lakh. People have supported us to bring change and development in the state. Who knows what will happen in 2024 but I assure you that we (the BJP and JJP) will work together strongly till the next elections. We will focus on generating more employment; more industries have to come in... The number of mobile companies in India has increased from four to 260, but how much of this has come to Haryana? Zero. We need to get Apple, Samsung and other such firms. They can ensure large-scale employment.

VARINDER BHATIA: You said that action will be taken against the corrupt, but your own family members have been convicted in corruption cases.

You need to define what corruption is. The case against my father... according to the High Court judgment... it is very clear that zero money was involved and no relative or party worker was given employment. Where is the corruption? There were two lists and nobody can prove which was original and which was not. The 3,206 JBT (Junior Basic Training) teachers were employed in 2000 and today it is 2019. They have done 19 years of government service and are still there. How can you call it corruption? It’s not like Bihar or Uttar Pradesh where people went out of jobs and were thrown behind bars. There was a huge chunk of money involved. In the case of my father, I can make it very clear that he was not even a part of the state government. He was put behind bars because of a word that was put in the chargesheet — ‘Bhai Sahab’.

Read | Meet the core team of Dushyant Chautala

VANDANA SHARMA: What is your stand on the cases registered against Jats for violence during the 2016 quota agitation?

There was a statement issued by the BJP government that those cases will be taken back. We will work on it and I guarantee that some steps will be taken. But I think the matter is sub-judice and in the high court for now. It is too early to predict what will happen.

VARINDER BHATIA: During the campaign, Union Home Minister Amit Shah called the Hooda and Chautala families ‘termites of democracy’. After the alliance, you went and presented him a bouquet.

Political statements were also made by the Prime Minister against Nitish Kumar... I was also called a monkey during the campaign. These are just political statements.

MAN AMAN SINGH CHINNA: So all such statements should be taken with a pinch of salt in the future?

It is not a political commitment... it’s a political statement. If I start picking statements made by people in the Congress, or people who are supporting the Congress... or anti-BJP statements made by people who are now in the BJP and were earlier in the Congress... You can’t do politics like that. You need to have a large heart and forgive and forget in order to move forward for the development of people. That is the main idea.

SOFI AHSAN: Stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab has been blamed for the pollution in Delhi. How do you plan to tackle this?

The cases (in Haryana) have not been registered by officers, but through satellite mapping — as per my information. Yes, paddy husk is burnt... In the last decade we haven’t taken steps to reuse the waste. There have been power plants made in Punjab and Rajasthan. There is one power plant right next to my village, Chautala, which is in Rajasthan. It has a capacity of 3 MW and produces power out of agricultural waste — paddy, wheat or of any other crop. We need to set up the same in Haryana. The government has already approved one such plant in Panipat. But that is not enough. We need to expedite the process, there has to be a policy change. We need to build more waste-to-energy plants.

Decomposer is another thing. There is technology being created in HAU (Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University)... I have asked for a full report. They have built a dome where agricultural waste is put... and the fuel produced can replace LPG, and can be supplied to one full village with a population of 5,000 people. If we can do that at a cost of Rs 15 lakh per village, people can convert waste to energy in their own village. This harks back to Gandhiji’s idea of a nation of self-sufficient villages.

NITIN SHARMA: In its previous tenure, the BJP government faced flak for proposing a tax on the income of professional players.

I will not dwell on what happened in the past. I know that we (Haryana) ensure one-third of the country’s medals. The 2020 Olympics is round the corner, our idea is to provide the best facilities at any expense to all those who are participating. We have wrestlers who have already qualified. We have a boxer also. We need facilities and we need international-level training. We were never in competition in table tennis... We never won any medal in the Asian Games (in the sport). But now we have won three medals in the Asian Games... Winning three medals in the Asian Games is equivalent to winning three medals in the Olympics because most of the countries participating in table tennis at the Olympics are Asian anyway. We don’t have facilities for fencing in Haryana. I went for the Run for Unity at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Gurgaon and a group of five girls came up to me for a selfie. They informed me that they do gymnastics and that they don’t have indoor facilities. This needs to be developed in the next five years. We have the capability but we also need to provide adequate facilities.

During the elections, I got worried when I noticed that most of the counting booths were on sports grounds, which had been closed for six months — from the Lok Sabha to the Vidhan Sabha elections. We need to make sure that at least athletes get to access these stadiums.

Read | Out of Tihar, Ajay Chautala says: 'I told Dushyant to go with BJP'

We have huge job opportunities, and if we get 75% share... Have you seen Haryana state taxis? The drivers are not from Haryana. Why can’t we train children to become drivers? Where will Uber and Ola go then?” Chautala said.

HINA ROHTAKI: According to you, which area needs immediate attention in the state?

It’s unemployment. That will be my prime focus. I will work 24/7 on this. We have huge employment opportunities in the state, and if we get 75 per cent share in that... So I shall work towards that. Have you seen the Haryana government taxis in the state? The drivers are not from Haryana. Why don’t we employ Haryanvis? Why can’t we give our children training to become professional drivers? Where will Uber and Ola go then? They will have to hire our own people.

JAGDEEP SINGH: What do you think is the reason for the economic slowdown?

I have witnessed economic slowdown for the second time in my life. The first time was when I was in college in the US... I have seen my batchmates, who drove Hummers, switch to cycles in a period of nine months. That kind of slowdown needs drastic steps. The Central government has taken one or two steps but they need to do more. We need foreign investment. We have a young economy... We can fill the gap that China and US have failed to fill because they have an ageing population.

SAURABH PRASHAR: The quality of education in the state is also not very good. Do you plan to focus on that?

I promise you that in the next Budget the GDP share for education will be brought up to the level of BRICS countries such as Brazil. We have invested only 1.4 per cent of our GDP in education. Brazil invests about 4.8 per cent and China 6 per cent.

We also need to focus on research. Not one university (in Haryana) has a patent. I was talking to the CM the other day... Why do the IITs and IIMs survive? Their research brings in funds. We invest so much into our universities but what do we get back? There is one university, HAU, which used to give something back because it had dairy, horticulture and agriculture... But Mr (former CM Bhupinder) Hooda took out veterinary section from agriculture... When the BJP came to power at the Centre, they announced a horticulture university. However, instead of inaugurating another university, they just separated the horticulture department of HAU to make an independent university. Now only agriculture is left with HAU, which too is only limited to paddy and rice... We have to take steps to merge these universities and make research the prime focus. I will work with the CM for that. We don’t have to pay two vice-chancellors to run one institution.

MANRAJ GREWAL SHARMA: What is your vision for the farmer?

We need to change the crop cycle and work with Israel on vertical farming. I went to Singapore as part of a government delegation and saw it has tomatoes growing at 20 feet through the year. I have tried it at my house where we have grown tomatoes under solar panels. We need to educate farmers instead of just providing subsidies and saying that we have done our duty.