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Elections 2019: New Alliances May Pose Threat to Mainstream Parties in Haryana

Divisions within INLD and infighting among Congress factions could make the going easier for BJP despite its dismal governance in the past five years.
Elections 2019

Image Coutesy: India Today

New Delhi: As the general elections inch closer, Haryana is expected to witness a multi-cornered fight with major political parties, including Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the newly formed Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) floated by Dushyant Chautala, flexing muscles to win the 10 Lok Sabha seats in state. The state, at present ruled by BJP, will go to polls on May 12.

Reports suggest that new alliances formed between regional players, such as  Bahujan Samaj Party (BJP) and Loktantra Suraksha Party, launched by rebel BJP leader, Rajkumar Saini, may create some trouble for mainstream parties in the hinterland.

The political scene in the state took an interesting turn in Haryana with the division in INLD, the main opposition party in the state, followed by a bitter feud in the Chautala family, giving birth to JJP. Om Prakash Chautala, a five-time fChief Minister and key campaigner for INLD, is serving a 10-year jail term after being found guilty in a teachers’ recruitment scam in the state. The feud has cost the party its 11-month old alliance with BSP, which had proved beneficial to both in 1998 when the combine won five Lok Sabha seats in elections. 

 In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP won seven seats followed by INLD bagging two seats and Congress retaining the sole seat of Rohtak, won by  Deepender Singh Hooda, son of former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

The result of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will have a significant impact for all parties, including the ruling BJP, as the Assembly elections are also due to take place later this year. 

However, political observers feel that lack of opposition unity, divisions within the INLD and infighting among factions within Congress, may make the going easier for BJP despite its dismal governance in the past five years. The first instance of misgovernance appeared within a few days of the formation of the Manohar Lal Khattar government in November 2014 when supporters of self-styled godman Sant Rampal wreaked havoc in Hisar, leading to unprecedented violence that claimed six lives.

Similar instance kept repeating in 2016 and 2017 in form of violence by Jats after the Supreme Court revoked reservations, followed by violence by supporters of Gurmeet Ram Rahim after his sentencing, causing the death to 20 people and injuring 250 people. Interestingly, Gurmeet Ram Rahim had openly extended his support to the saffron party ahead of the Assembly elections. The influence of the self-styled godman on the BJP government could be gauged from the fact that senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya, along with 17 newly-elected MLAs, visited him to thank him for his support in their victory.

The saffron party is also facing a backlash from youths and farmers who constitute a significant chunk of voters. Sumit Singh, a student at Kurukshetra University, says youth feel betrayed on both fronts -- education and employment. He cites the example of nursing students, who were admitted in 2012 but completed their courses only in 2018 whereas they should have got their degrees in 2016, all because of non-declaration of results for many years. 

Similarly, the BJP government had promised unemployment allowance but what the youth are witnessing instead is ‘unemployment allowance’ being paid for work being undertaken under the Saksham scheme, which was introduced to make educated people "capable" to work in public and private sector enterprises. Under the scheme, post-graduates are paid Rs 9,000, while graduates get Rs 6,000 per month, which is way below the prescribed minimum wages.

Sukhbir Singh, a CPI (M) candidate from the Hisar Lok Sabha seat, has more serious charges against the Khattar government. Talking to NewsClick, Singh says Haryana, which emerged as a grain bowl after the Green Revolution, is witnessing farmer suicides due to the agrarian crisis.

"We are entering the harvesting season and farmers growing mustard are compelled to sell their produce at Rs 3,200 per quintal against the minimum support price of Rs 4,200. They were further hit when their crops were affected after hailstorm. They could not find the office of a single insurance company in their districts to claim the damage", he adds. 

Singh blamed the government’s digitalisation push in the absence of a credible structure for hitting the livelihoods of 22 lakh construction workers who are now required to fill all details online if they wish to continue receiving government benefits.

Stung by the growing opposition attack on a string of failures, the BJP seems to be  relying on division of votes on caste lines between Jat and non-Jat voters, which yielded success  to the party in the recently concluded Jind bypoll where its candidate defeated Congress and JJP. But the divisive caste politics advocated by BJP has backfired on it, too. 

Rajkumar Saini, its OBC (Other Backward Classes) face and MP from Kurukshetra broke away and floated a new party, Loktantra Suraksha Party, alleging that BJP’s promise of reservation to Jats was in violation of the Supreme Court’s order. Morever, it comes at a cost to other backward castes. Sainis are estimated to constitute 12% of the electorate in Haryana with strong presence in Kurukshetra district and Radaur and Jagadhari Assembly segments of Yamunanagar district; Naraingarh in Ambala and Gohana in Sonepat district. The party's alliance with BSP in Haryana may emerge as strong force to reckon with in the forthcoming elections in these areas.

On the other side, the Congress top brass is struggling with its factions and is trying to build peace between former CM Hooda and state party chief Ashok Tanwar to unitedly take on BJP. It is learnt that the Hooda faction is pressuring the party to remove Tanwar from presidentship.

Yet another big hurdle that has hit the grand old party is the unwillingness of its senior leaders to contest the elections.  Navin Jindal, Kuldeep Sharma and Kumari Selja are reportedly not keen on fighting elections this time round. However, Congress state in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad has denied infighting within the party.

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