Decision 2019: In Haryana, BJP vs divided Congress vs new Chautala

SUKHBIR SIWACH
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. (Express file photo)

Haryana votes in both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections this year. It is not yet clear, however, whether these will be simultaneous or whether the Assembly elections will follow the Lok Sabha polls as in 2014.

How did Haryana vote in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly polls?

In the May 2014 results for the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won 7 of the state's 10 seats, with a 35% vote share and leads in 52 of 90 Assembly segments. In the Assembly polls of October 2014, the BJP won 47 seats as its vote share dropped to 33%. This has been the broad trend in the last two decades, with the party performing well in Lok Sabha polls going on on to win the Haryana Assembly.

What issues are at play now?

The BJP is set to contest in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as project Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's governance record. The Congress is expected to raise the issues of Rafale deal and farm distress. Congress leader and former Chief Parliamentary Secretary Ran Singh Mann alleged the BJP government has failed to provide the jobs it promised, while BJP leader Sanjay Ahuja claimed the state government has ensured transparency in government recruitment. The INLD has has been demanding completion of the SYL canal. In the end, many expect caste politics to upstage national issues.

How have the parties been preparing?

The BJP is trying to reach out to booth-level workers, and has pided the state into four clusters. One meeting will be held in Kurukshetra on February 23, followed two days later by BJP president Amit Shah meeting with party workers in Hisar. Khattar has already held roadshows in many towns.

Congress leaders have held rallies but these are widely seen as aimed at pitching their inpidual aspirations. Former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda held a rath yatra and Haryana state Congress president Ashok Tanwar a cycle yatra. AICC communications wing in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala and CLP leader Kiran Choudhry have held separate rallies.

Do these parties have problems within?

As the separate rallies suggest, infighting continues in the Congress. MLAs in one camp are said to be lobbying for the removal of Tanwar as HPCC chief; at one stage, they even sought removal of Choudhry as CLP chief. In the battle to head the state Congress, the party has failed to form district units. The lack of a coordinated effort is seen as one of the reasons for Surjewala's defeat in the recent Assembly bypoll in Jind.

The BJP could face a potential problem in rebellion, including from senior leaders. Rebel BJP MP Raj Kumar Saini has formed the Loktantra Suraksha Party, which has forged an alliance with the BSP. Many feel the alliance may dent the non-Jat vote-bank of the BJP.

Is the INLD still a major player?

Haryana's main Opposition party, the INLD has split between factions lead by patriarch Om Prakash Chautala's son Abhay Chautala and Abhay's nephew Dushyant Chautala. Its candidate lost his security deposit in the Jind bypoll and its alliance partner BSP snapped ties after the result. Om Prakash Chautala is in jail and, even when he was out on furlough, his illness forced the party to cancel some of his programmes aimed at motivating INLD workers. Dushyant Chautala's new party, JJP, finished second in Jind and is said to be exploring an alliance with AAP.

What caste equations are play?

Traditionally, it has been Jat vs non-Jat. When supporters of Hooda want him to project as chief ministerial candidate, their argument is that a chunk of the 25% Jat vote could go otherwise to Dushyant Chautala's party. Those against this idea, meanwhile, argue that polarisation of Jats and non-Jats could end up helping the BJP. The Congress too is banking on non-Jat votes, with former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal's son Kuldeep Bishnoi and Kuldeep's wife Renuka, both MLAs, having returned to the party.