With only a week left for polling in the Assembly elections, Haryana is witnessing an interesting clash of political parties where emphasis is more concentrated on wooing the rebels from opposition parties. Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress and even the newly formed Jannayak Janta Party have seen the influx of rebels. The prime reason behind the changing loyalties is the political clout and big money these rebels bring. For example, Rohtash Khatana and Balraj Kundu are among the richest candidates in the polls. While Khatana declared his assets worth Rs 325 crore, Kundu’s moveable and immoveable property’s estimated worth is Rs 149 crore. Kundu was reportedly vouching for a ticket from BJP but the final list by the saffron party decimated his hopes with its candidates' list. Kundu soon switched to JJP.
Amid the mad rush, the selection of the candidates by the left parties is interesting. The parties have chosen construction workers, factory workers and dalits as candidates. Continuing their electoral alliance, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India (CPI) have now fielded their candidates on 7 and 4 Assembly seats, respectively. The selection of candidates has been done owing to the recent struggles, said a senior party functionary, adding that they are maintaining a thrust on issues, not personalities.
Virender Dangwal is a retired employee, who is contesting from Faridabad NIT on a CPI (M) ticket, told NewsClick that the complete neglect of people's issues in the constituency has had a lasting impact on the lives of the people. Sharing his memories about his first stint in the left movement, he said, “I guess it was 1984 when I first joined DYFI while I was working as a mechanical worker. That was my first stint in left politics. However, things changed dramatically during 1987, when we were arrested for our participation in the historic strike and were lodged in different central jails. Then, Bansi Lal was leading the government. I was a mechanical worker at a factory where we organised workers. After retirement, I joined the party."
Also read: Haryana Elections: Battle Between a ‘Non-Confident’ BJP and ‘Fractured’ Congress
To the question of issues affecting the constituency, Dangwal replied that the condition of civic amenities is in such a bad state that people can hardly afford to live in these areas. He said, “Faridabad houses many unauthorised colonies where lakhs of workers reside and contribute significantly to the state's economy. But these areas do not have basic amenities such as regular water supply and proper drainage. Even few millimetres rains can flood these areas. We recently saw the death of a person who fell in a sewer after the holes were left open in the rainy season."
Struggles to play decisive role
The leadership of the parties believe the recent struggles waged by different unions affiliated to them may turn a significant portion of votes in their favour. Surender Malik, Secretary, CPI (M) state committee told NewsClick, "The party gained significantly after several struggles resulted in the victory of workers. For example, we strongly defended the strike of 9,000 sanitation workers. The government not only agreed to an increase in salaries but also introduced other social security measures like ESI (Employees State Insurance) and PF (Provident Fund) too. A similar struggle was waged by the Roadways workers when 365 workers were suspended from their jobs citing overflow of strength. After the strike, the government not only withdrew the suspension letter but also withdrew pending legal cases against them." Malik also targets the state government led by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar over its failure in delivering promises made in previous elections.
Malik emphasised that Khattar, in his own words, promised 10 lakh jobs in five years but he recently admitted that he could provide only 72,000 jobs. He added that recent reports have shown that Haryana is facing the highest level of unemployment measured at 28.7%. As far as children health is concerned, 55.8% kids are suffering from malnutrition and 66% women are anaemic.
He added, "Haryana has a deficit of 4,00,000 employees. For recently advertised 4,800 posts, almost 15 lakh persons applied. If you look at education, the government merged 2,509 schools, depriving thousands of children from their basic right."
Many political analysts observe that a election based on personalities suits the political class best and a similar situation is visible in the state too, which is going to polls on October 21.
Kushal Pal, Associate Professor at Dyal Singh College, Karnal, told NewsClick that the politics in previous elections in the state has established that personality-based politics is now the mainstay for these parties. He said, “Personalities are still important in this election. We have Bhoopinder Singh Hooda's son contesting. Bhajan Lal's son, too, is in the battle. There is also a surge of identity-based politics in the state. Caste and religion are now new identities with whom people reckon with." Both Bhupinder Hooda and Bhajan Lal belong to the dominant Jat community in Haryana.
Also read: Haryana Polls: Low Voter Interest in Hisar, Outcome Hinges on Caste Calculations
But Malik disagrees with this narrative. He said, "This time, elections are more about the promises made and broken by the government led by CM Manohar Lal Khattar. We may or may not be able
to completely shift the narrative towards the important issues. However, what is important is that at least some one is talking about it."