New Delhi: As Haryana gets set for Assembly elections this month, the state’s hinterland is poised to witness an intense electoral contest between traditional political rivals, which many political analysts refer to as "a fight between non-confident BJP and fractured Congress". The state will go to polls on October 21.
Previous political equations may also get unsettled with regional satraps, like Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) and Loktantra Suraksha Party (LP) fielding candidates who may dent into vote banks of Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
So, will Congress make a comeback a five-year hiatus? Or, will BJP form a second government even though its tenure was marred with the mishandling of law and order situation thrice? Will the small players pose a challenge? Here's how the poll landscape looks, for now.
Politics Divided Between Jats and Brahmins
The roots of Haryana’s electoral politics can be traced to the early 20th century when Chaudhary Chhotu Ram launched his weekly magazine Jat Gazette in 1916. The weekly was established to chronicle major incidents and events, apart from publishing news from the Jat community. In response, Pandit Shri Ram Sharma launched Haryana Tilak in 1923.
The two journals showed an interesting clash of ideas between Jats and Brahmins in the state. While the Jat community had espoused the ideas propagated by the Arya Samaj movement, the Brahmins vehemently opposed the spread of these ideas that promoted widow remarriage, abandoning the practice of idol worship etc.
Matu Ram Hooda, grandfather of former chief minister and Congress leader Bhoopinder Singh Hooda, was one of the chief proponents of the Arya Samaj campaign. The politics of the state later reflected similar tendencies in post-Independent India, too. The state later saw the influx of other communities when Banarsi Das Gupta became chief minister in 1975.
Not a Cake Walk for BJP This Time
Riding on the Narednra Modi wave, the BJP came to power in 2014 in the state by clinching 47 out of 90 Assembly seats. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), another regional key player, won 17 seats and Congress remained at a distant third with 15 seats.
Analysts suggest that the BJP’s win was rooted in polarisation of 35 castes or biradaris by creating an impression that the Congress was a Jat-dominated party and did not offer much to other castes. Buoyed by another thumping win in parliamentary elections in 2019, the BJP is targeting 75 plus seats in the upcoming elections. But its actions suggests otherwise.
The party has given a majority of tickets to rebels imported from Congress and JJP. Recently, five legislators of INLD, four of whom switched sides by joining JJP, were disqualified as members of the Haryana Assembly under the anti-defection law by Speaker Kanwar Pal.
Those disqualified were Naina Singh Chautala, wife of jailed leader Ajay Singh Chautala, Rajdeep Phogat, Pirthi Singh and Anoop Dhanak, all of whom joined the JJP while another legislator Naseem Ahmad first switched over to the Congress and later came to BJP’s fold.
A big factor is also the looming economic slowdown that is sure to hit the prospects of BJP. Haryan, is already battling an agrarian crisis, and also produces cotton which is consumed by textile industry. With economic slowdown, the sales of cotton are bound to nosedive after the industry experts made it clear that the sales of the product will further halt. The retrenchment in the automobile industry has sent many workers back to their villages, who were also sole breadwinners of their families. It is estimated that at least two lakh workers have lost their jobs after the various automobile companies reported slump in sales.
Fractured Congress Battle Infighting
The Congress, headed by Hooda, is battling infighting with factions divided between Ashok Tanwar, Kumari Selja and Randeep Singh Surjewala. Its former state president Ashok Tanwar decided to part his ways with the party. The party's candidate list suggest that it wishes to return to the age-old tested formula of forging an alliance of jats, dalits and Muslims. While jats are believed to form 27% of the state’s population, dalits too form about 20% of the populace. Muslims, although a relatively smaller community, are dominant in the Mewat region. The party is also banking on the support from the dhanak community (weavers) which is annoyed after BJP did not field a single candidate from the community. However, the thrust of the campaign of the party is on unemployment measured at 28.7% in the state.
Regional Satraps and Changing Equations
Regional satraps are likely to dent the prospects of both BJP and Congress. The INLD, led by former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, saw a vertical split after the Chautala family members parted over the succession. Om Prakash Chautala is serving a 10-year jail term after found guilty of corruption in a teacher recruitment scam. Dushyant Chautala, his grandson has formed JJP, which failed to impress the electorate in parliamentary elections this year. However, he claims that the trend will reverse this time.
The LSP, floated by rebel BJP leader Raj Kumar Saini has entered into an alliance with Rashtarwadi Janlok Party. Saini had formed the party after the Jat community staged protests after job quota was withdrawn by the Supreme Court. Eyeing Other Backward Class votes, the party has fielded candidates from backward classes on 80 seats. Shiromani Akali Dal, a former ally of BJP, has now decided to forge an alliance with INLD after its lone MLA switched over to BJP. Apart from these, there are other small players, such as the Aam Aadmi Party and Swaraj India.
Read More: Assembly Elections: Worry for BJP, Cong as Rebels Enter Fray in Haryana