Haryana stands at political crossroads with just a few months to go for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls and subsequent state Assembly polls. The political scenario stands in a very fluid state notwithstanding the fact that the ruling BJP performed well in the recent urban civic polls. Right now, the Congress has a slight edge and can emerge as the leader in both the parliamentary and Assembly polls provided it resolves its leadership issues at the earliest.
A lot depends on the permutations and combinations that emerge in the days to come in this state that once gave the ‘Aya Ram Gaya Ram’ model of politics to the country. For example, the scenario would totally change if there is a Mahagathbandhan at the national level where the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) come to an understanding of sorts because the latter is currently in an agreement with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). Similarly, a new scenario would also emerge if the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) come together as the latter has decided to test the political waters in the state. It also depends which way the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) led by Dushyant Chautala goes. The JJP is a new entity that emerged from the internal strife in the Chautala family.
One has to analyse where the four main parties –the BJP, the Congress, the INLD and AAP stand at this point of time. The ruling BJP under Manohar Lal Khattar is clearly on the defensive but still a strong force to reckon with. The government led by the party has stood unravelled time and again, be it the episode of violence by followers of Godman Rampal, the Jat reservation stir or the mayhem created by the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim. Its track record also remains deplorable when it comes to women’s safety, with rising number of incidents of rape and killings of women. The government also has much to answer on incidents of attacks on minorities by cow vigilantes. The Dalits have also been repeatedly attacked.
Then of course, are the issues of farm distress and unemployment. The BJP will surely find it difficult to balance these with its development narrative. The party had come to power winning majority of the seats outside the Jat heartland and in the districts along the GT road. Observers feel that it would be relying on polarisation between Jats and non-Jats whose relationship has been torrid since the Jat reservation agitation. It will also be relying on communal polarisation that has been orchestrated in Gurugram and Nuh districts of South Haryana on issues such as offering Namaz at public places and allegations of beef consumption. But the party will also have to deal with a campaign against Khattar for being a Punjabi. The Jats, who account for almost one-fourth of the electorate, have been annoyed with the BJP for not appointing a Chief Minister from the community.
Its top leaders like former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, state unit chief Ashok Tanwar, Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Kiran Chaudhary, MPs Randeep Surjewala and Kumari Selja have been drawing good response to the campaigns that they have launched on issues ranging from farm distress to Dalit rights and shoddy implementation of GST
The stand-off between the leader of state opposition Abhay Chautala and his nephew Dushyant Chautala had led to the emergence of the JJP is expected to eat into the voter base of INLD, primarily seen as a party of the Jats. INLD has been weakened considerably and a lot depends on whether its pact with the BSP continues. With more than 19% of the total electorate, Dalits can be a deciding factor in several seats.
The Congress stands well poised at this point of time looking to reap maximum benefits rising out of anti-incumbency and presenting itself to be a more inclusive force. Its top leaders like former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, state unit chief Ashok Tanwar, Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Kiran Chaudhary, MPs Randeep Surjewala and Kumari Selja have been drawing good response to the campaigns that they have launched on issues ranging from farm distress to Dalit rights and shoddy implementation of GST.
But, these campaigns have been mainly been individual and not as a part of a cohesive Congress strategy. While Hooda and Tanwar had given indications of burying their differences a few months back, the issue of leadership in the state stands unresolved. The party will have to spell out the name of its leader soon as communities like the Jats are sitting on the fence.
“The safest bet for the party will be to announce a Jat as chief ministerial face and let a Dalit be the organisational head in the state. But at the same time the leadership cannot ignore leaders like Hooda,” said an observer.
The party will also have to appoint a full time All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge also at the earliest. The post has been lying vacant for the last seven months ever since Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath vacated it.
The fourth force trying to get a foothold in the state politics is AAP. Although a new entrant, it cannot be underestimated given the fact that it is in power in neighbouring Delhi where most of its legislators, including Arvind Kejriwal, have their roots in Haryana. The party has been eyeing mainly the seats in Haryana that fall in the National Capital Region (NCR) where its leaders are trying to sell the Delhi model of governance.