Journalist | Inside Khattar government critic Devender Singh Babli takes aim again
His party is part of the ruling coalition in Haryana and he is part of the State Cabinet. But Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) leader Devender Singh Babli has been a vocal critic of the Manohar Lal Khattar-led government since he was minister. And now he again denounced the state administration, accusing him of “frequenting the drug mafia” and of “failing to act against the corrupt”. This time, his outburst is likely to have something to do with protecting his territory.
Babli, 52, is a businessman and started his political career only a few years ago. He was initially in Congress, where he was considered a close confidant of former Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee Chairman Ashok Tanwar. Sources in Congress told The Indian Express that Babli was seen as an upcoming politician in Fatehabad with a strong following in the region due to his social work. He is currently one of the wealthiest deputies in the state.
“In the 2019 Assembly polls, he was a strong contender for Tohana and among the favorites for the Congress ticket. But, Congress nominated former Agriculture Minister Paramvir Singh instead of Babli. Angered him. As Ashok Tanwar also had to leave the Congress, Babli also ended his association with the party and joined the JJP led by Dushyant Chautala. Dushyant saw his potential and launched him against the leader of BJP state Subhash Barala Babli won,” a senior Congress official told The Indian Express, summarizing the minister’s rapid rise in politics.
Babli’s margin of victory over Barala was over 52,000 votes. It was the second highest margin of victory in these elections. The BJP fell short of a majority in the 90-member House and entered into a post-election alliance with the JJP, which won 10 constituencies. While Khattar managed to retain his post, JJP leader Dushyant Chautala became the Deputy Chief Minister. But despite the defeat of the then BJP leader in his first election, Babli did not find a place on the ministerial council.
Just three months later, in January 2020, Babli fired its first salvo against the government. He called the ruling dispensation ‘the most corrupt’ and told The Indian Express he was ashamed to be part of a government where ‘no one cares about the people‘ and under which the police are nothing but crooks. “hooligans in uniform”.
“The situation is not good at all. People are not satisfied. How can they be satisfied when even I (a chosen one) am not satisfied? There may have been corruption in previous governments, but I have never seen such levels of corruption,” he said at the time.
He then targeted the government in September 2020, but this time his target was his own party leader. “Dushyant should have inducted all JJP quota ministers on the day he was sworn in as deputy CM. Even the presidents of the various councils should have been appointed from among the party deputies. Why didn’t this happen? he said, claiming disgruntled JJP MPs were in contact with him.
When asked if he was rebelling against Dushyant’s leadership, Babli replied, “How is that a revolt? Isn’t it a failure of the head of the family if he is unable to take care of the house? We elected Dushyant as leader of our legislative party. Shouldn’t we entrust the ministry to others? Seven of the 10 deputies had their own base. If Dushyant has influence across the state, why didn’t the party win 55-60 seats? »
The minister who belongs to the Jat community and comes from a farming family sided with the protesters during the agitation against three central farm bills which lasted over a year and only ended when the Center announced the repeal of the laws last year. In March 2021, Babli told the Assembly that villagers were boycotting MPs to protest the laws. “Nowadays, when we go to villages, we get phone calls telling us not to come to our village, whether it’s social or religious events or a wedding we have to attend. We said that since you don’t want to invite us and you don’t want us to fulfill our social or political responsibilities, we won’t come. It is a problem.”
A few months later, in June, Babli’s convoy was attacked in Tohana. After the attack, he was heard making objectionable remarks about those he believed to have carried out the attack. The minister’s personal assistant suffered serious head injuries in the attack and the windshield of his vehicle was shattered. Four days later, Babli reportedly bowed to pressure from farmers and “forgave” those who attacked him.
Last December, MP JJP’s efforts to keep the government on its toes paid off and he was inducted into the Cabinet as minister for development and the panchayat.
But, among his main problems, Barala is still very active in Tohana. Babli accused the BJP leader of not allowing him to work in the constituency. During his recent outburst, Babli was filmed saying a few days ago, “Until Devender Singh Babli is here, I won’t let anyone do anything wrong here in Tohana. These (corrupt) people should forget about it. Many scams have taken place here in the past and these scams have been swept under the rug. Illegal buildings have appeared here in Tohana. It is such people who have built assets worth Rs 500 crore here in Tohana.
The MP urged people to wage a war on corruption and said people not only in Tohana but across the state should “blacken the face of corrupt politicians”. Asked about the alleged corruption, Babli told the Indian Express: “I would say it’s the weakness of the government.”
Responding to remarks from his party and his Cabinet colleague, Dushyant Chautala said: “So why doesn’t he stop it? If Babli sees corruption somewhere, he must catch it and stop it immediately. What will happen when we talk about it? Until you stop it and take action against the corrupted, this corruption will not stop. Our government has taken several initiatives within the framework of digitization to fight against corruption. »
Opposition leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda of Congress ‘congratulated’ the Tohana MP, saying ‘someone has finally shown the courage to speak the truth’. The former CM went on to say, “If Devender Babli is telling a lie, Dushyant should take action against him. Then Devender Babli has no right to remain in Cabinet. But, if he (Babli) is telling the truth, then the government is exposed. It is not just Babli, the whole state knows that corruption is at its peak in Haryana. He (Babli) is not an ordinary person. He is not only a member of a party but also a member of the council of ministers of the coalition government. The state government must investigate all the issues it has raised and take strong action against the culprits.