Haryana is going to polls on 10 April. The 17th State of the nation sends ten Parliamentarians in the Lok Sabha, of which 9 are currently from the Congress. Since the year 2005, Congress is holding power in the State, with Bhupinder Singh Hooda as the Chief Minister. The total electorate in the State was 1.20 crore in 2009.
It was only in the year 1999, during the 13th Lok Sabha Elections that the BJP and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) combination won five seats each in the State. INLD is in disarray now, after its Chiefs, the father son duo went to jail. BJP and INLD are now fighting the Elections separately. BJP has now combined with less influential Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC). The latest entry of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), in the fray has created some interest, at least, in the belts adjacent to the national capital, Delhi. BJP was never a formidable force here. But this time, the Narendra Modi factor has created visible change in the mood of the electors.
Congress is deluged with desertions and infighting. Charges of corruption and nepotism are an issue. In fact, Congress is fighting almost a lost battle. Many of its prominent Candidates have either been left out or have left the party. A State which is known for its agricultural bounty and industrial development abound, is also a State known for its Khaps and caste affiliations. Overall, it’s a interesting voting atmosphere and a politically changed scenario here.
Like every election year, the national and regional level political parties in Haryana are trying hard to get the best out of its caste-based votes. At the same time BJP and other opposition parties are trying to utilise the strong undercurrent anti-incumbency factor. BJP is harping on the corruption factor, especially on Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s alleged favour and irregularities involving Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other corporates.
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Senior Congress leaders, like Union Minister Kumari Selja seem unhappy with Hooda’s style of functioning. Leaving the Ambala Parliamentary seat, she is choosing the safe Rajya Sabha berth, instead. Rajya Sabha MP Birender Singh is too vocal about the political manoeuvring of Hooda and the selective development in just some constituencies in the state.Another Congress stalwart Rao Inderjit Singh, the Lok Sabha MP, has now joined BJP, peeved with State Congress leadership. Haryana Congress Chief Ashok Tanwar was not ready to contest from Sirsa. Another senior Congress Minister Captain Ajay Singh Yadav was expecting his Lok Sabha ticket allotted from Gurgaon in favour of his son, but his party is now fielding a sitting MLA. The party suffered a major setback when MLA Venod Sharma, considered a close confidant of CM Hooda, left the party expecting a ticket from HJC, from Karnal. But BJP, HJC’s dominating partner was not ready. Sharma has no other option left, apart from contesting as an independent! The influential Congress politicians who have now joined the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) recently are , MP ,Rao Inderjit Singh, Dharambir Singh (former MLA from Sohna) and Ramesh Kaushik. BJP has obliged all of them with a ticket each.Now, Rao Inderjit Singh will contest from the urban Gurgaon seat against AAP’s top leader Yogendra Yadav. Ramesh Kaushik is pitted from Sonepat. Also, Dharambir Singh will contest against State Excise and Taxation Minister Kiran Chaudhary’s daughter Shruti Chaudhary from Mahendergarh. BJP has almost reluctantly joined hand this time with Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), founded by the former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal. As per my understanding, BJP will contest for eight seats, leaving the rest two, Sirsa and Hissar for HJC. BJP also has seen some sporadic internal fighting, while selecting its candidates. Incidentally this time, five of BJP’s eight candidates have Congress background! After Congress, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), used to be the most important opposition party of the State.
Though its contesting all 10 seats on its own, the party is almost marginalised now, after its top leaders Om Prakash Chautala and son Ajay Chautala were convicted in in a controversial teachers’ recruitment scam. The new entrant Aam Aadmi Party is not obviously a major player outside the urban pockets, in this Caste and Khap influenced rural and semi urban areas. But it can surely eat into the Dalit vote shares of the two national parties, mostly Congress’s traditional Dalit vote base. No doubt, earlier it took a substantial chunk of Bahujan Samaj Party’s Dalit vote base during Delhi’s Assembly Elections.
The Caste Factor
Despite the mottled pockets of developments, the growing Mall culture, its closeness to the national capital Delhi and the fact that 13 districts of the State are now within the National Capital Region(NCR), the politics of the State is predominantly ruled by the Caste factor. To make things clear, Haryana politics, as well as electioneering have always been about Jats and non-Jats. Then, there are the family or caste affiliations the Bishnois, the Chautalas, and the Hoodas. The politicians here have always relied on these parameters of loyalties and followed their political paths accordingly. Here an urban outfit AAP is finding it difficult to fight on issues. Despite the fact that two of its prominent leaders, Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav are from this State!
Haryana has an alarming sex ratio. Many of the families are desperate to buy brides from other states for their sons! The women folk have no say, either in family matters or politics. Most of the developments are in some selective pockets, either in some politician’s pocket borough or influential land developers’ chosen areas. The remaining hinterlands are unhealthy, dusty and devoid of much civic amenities! There is no dearth of costly private hospitals in urban pockets, but rural health centres are almost non-functional! There is only one Government Secondary School in the entire Hisar district! But no one talks much about these discrepancies or disparities.
People here talk, decide and vote, mostly on caste lines. Jats comprise around 25 per cent of the population of Haryana. And since the days of the former Deputy Prime Minister, Chaudhari Devi Lal, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has always been a stronger contestant, based on the powerful Jat community. But State’s main opposition party INLD is playing defensive this time, after the incarceration of its influential leader, Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala. For the rural-centric party INLD, the urban-centric party BJP has always been a natural ally. If there was a deal, the two of them could easily outnumber the other parties. People still think, there is a tacit understanding for maximum utilisation of Jat votes! Even a party like AAP is not totally free from the factor.
Yogendra Yadav’s Gurgaon constituency got its present form after new delimitation. This constituency was created by integrating five Assembly segments of the erstwhile Mahendergarh constituency with four Assembly segments of the erstwhile Faridabad constituency. Community calculation is a major factor here. The votes of Ahirs and Meo Muslims constitute around half the electorate here. Yogendra Yadav himself is an Ahir from a village in Rewari district and his party has also appealed to the Muslim voters, though not openly, but through friendly gestures towards the community.
The Congress vote share in the 2009 and 2004 Lok Sabha polls in Haryana was around 42 per cent, both the years.In the LS Elections of 2004 and 2009, Congress contested alone and won nine seats each time. Among the lone seat wrested, Sonepat was won by the BJP in 2004, while in the year 2009 the HJC was the winner in Hisar. BJP’s vote share also remained almost identical, around 17 per cent in 2004 and 2009 LS Elections. Main opposition party INLD got a vote share of around 22 per cent, both in 2004 and 2009. In the 1999 Lok Sabha Elections, BJP and the Chautala led INLD entered into an alliance and contested five seats each. That time Congress was unable to open its account in the State. In 1999, BJP’s vote share was 29.21 per cent and its electoral partner INLD had clinched 28.72 per cent of votes.
In 2009, Bhajan Lal’s son Kuldeep Bishnoi-led HJC, then a relatively new party, got a vote of 10.01 per cent. The party won the Hisar seat where Kuldeep Bishnoi defeated the Congress candidate. In the past many years, both the BJP and the INLD fought the elections without any alliance and failed to create any fissure in the Congress bastion. Before the 2014 general elections, desperate efforts were made at various levels for forging an alliance between the BJP and the INLD. But BJP was not ready to part the corruption tag attached with INLD. Almost reluctantly, BJP chose to go with HJC.
Akali Dal, specially Badals are close to Chautalas. Several top leaders, including Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Badal, tried to help re-create the alliance between the BJP and the INLD, which broke in 2007. It did not happen, but INLD has now stated that, the party would ultimately support Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister.
INLD has now fielded candidates in all 10 Lok Sabha constituencies. Among them, Om Prakash Chautala’s grandson Dushyant Chautala is fighting against Kuldeep Bishnoi in Hisar. Interestingly, when Dushyant Chautala filed his nomination papers, the junior Badal, Sukhbir was in his company. In the Sikh-dominated areas of Haryana like Ambala, Kurukshetra, Sirsa, and Karnal, Akali Dal is campaigning in favour of BJP’s rival INLD.
BJP State unit has protested, but party’s national body has said that BJP has an alliance with the Akali Dal in Punjab and Delhi only. Outside these two States, “the Akali Dal can enter into political alliance or understanding with any other party.”People are finding a reason behind it. BJP wants to cash in on the Bishnoi votes, aligning with HJC, and gain the two seats.
But Jats of Haryana this time are voting for either Narendra Modi or the Chautalas. It’s also decided that INLD will join supporting Modi after the elections. Modi as PM may help the Chautalas out of jail! Chautalas, whom many believe, are in jail due to Congress conspiracy and political vendetta! Also, if the HJC does not perform well in the present LS elections, its influence will wane out as the consequence. The possibility is that the INLD will later tie up with the BJP for the Assembly Elections in Haryana, later this year.
By Deep Basu