It’s anybody’s game in Haryana as Jats oppose Modi-Khattar rule

Written by SabrangIndia | Published on: May 9, 2019

A total of 1.8 crore voters will be voting in Haryana which is conducting the polls in a single phase on May 12. The BJP is facing double anti-incumbency in Haryana, where Manohar Lal Khattar government completes its tenure later this year. The Jat quota remains the top issue in the election in Haryana, where the caste equation has played a determinative role in polls.


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As many as 223 candidates are in the fray for 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana that goes to polls on May 12.
 
There are 18 candidates contesting for the Ambala constituency, 24 for Kurukshetra, 29 for Sonepat, 21 for Bhiwani-Mahendegarh, 24 for Gurugram, 20 for Sirsa, 26 for Hisar, 16 for Karnal and 27 for Faridabad.
 
A total of 1.8 crore voters will be voting in Haryana which is conducting the polls in a single phase. Of these, 6 lakh are new voters.
 
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had polled 34.8 per cent votes, winning seven seats, while the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) won two seats and the Congress finished third with one seat.
 
This time, in the fray, is also Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has entered into an alliance with Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janta Party (JJP). According to their seat-sharing strategy, the AAP is going to contest on three seats, leaving seven for JJP. At the joint press conference, Dushyant had said the two parties will fight together in the Haryana assembly polls too.
 
A split in INLD and the alliance between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) in Haryana are likely to result in a division of non-BJP votes in the state and hurt the Congress where it is in a close fight with the BJP in these Lok Sabha polls.
 
An INLD-BSP pact would have given a tough fight to the BJP, but the INLD split has changed all that. The BJP is only too pleased with the changed scenario and the Congress sees a ray of hope too.

Barring Hisar and Sonepat, the Congress and BJP are now locked in a straight fight. The INLD is in bad shape. So much so that it's sitting Sirsa MP Charanjeet Singh Rori seems out of the contest already. In Sirsa, the contest is between state Congress president Ashok Tanwar and former IRS officer Sunita Duggal.
 
The BJP is confident of a good show in Haryana after winning an assembly by-poll in Jind where Congress’s national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala was in the fray. But then, the BJP had filed Krishan Middha, the son of Hari Chand Midha, the INLD legislator whose death necessitated the byelection in Jind.
 
The BJP is facing double anti-incumbency in Haryana, where Manohar Lal Khattar government completes its tenure later this year. The Jat quota remains the top issue in the election in Haryana, where caste equation has played a determinative role in polls.
 
Jat leaders allege that the BJP government did not defend the 10 per cent quota in jobs to their community strongly enough in the Supreme Court which set aside the provision. Further, the Jats are said to be favouring the Congress and the INLD more than the BJP, which banks on the non-Jat OBC community, particularly the Sainis.
 
Famous political clans of Haryana will be crossing swords in polls in many Haryana constituencies this time. The third and fourth generation members of three political families of former biggies —Bhajan Lal, Devi Lal and Bansi Lal— besides the Hoodas have been fielded from various constituencies with the most direct contest between them in Hisar and Sonipat.
 
It is said that Chhattis biradari, or 36 communities leave together in harmony in Haryana but for this election, many are calling it 35 + 1 as Jat’s, the dominant community, could swing either way.
 
According to a recent survey conducted by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), better employment opportunities (44.61 per cent), agricultural loan availability (40.36 per cent) and higher price realization for farm products (33.80 per cent) were the top three voter priorities in the state.
 
Key constituencies in Haryana for 2019 Lok Sabha Elections
 
Kurukshetra
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has manoeuvred extensively through the constituency, with elaborate campaigns and public speeches from the campus of Kurukshetra University.
 
The seat gives an edge to BJP with over three lakh Jat voters, 1.25 lakh Brahmins, nearly 1 lakh Sainis and as many from Ror community, the descendants of Maratha soldiers who had fought in the historic battle of Panipat.
 
The BJP has fielded Nayab Saini from the seat.
 
The only threat facing the BJP in Kurukshetra is a challenge from a breakaway faction called the Lok Suraksha Party, headed by rebel Kurukshetra MP Rajkumar Saini.
 
Saini is looking to mobilise Dalit and minority votes, which will upset the BJP’s applecart.
 
During a rally in Kurukshetra on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was a victim of one-sided oppression, with the Congress hurling abuses at him all the time under the “veil of love”.
 
Kurukshetra picked a non-Jat MP last time. But reposing faith in Jat voters, Abhay Chautala has fielded his son Arjun Chautala. Here too, the contest is between BJP’s Nayab Singh Saini and Congress’ Nirmal Singh. After Naveen Jindal, an accused in the coal scam, refused to contest, the Congress shifted Nirmal Singh from Ambala to Kurukshetra. Saini, a minister in the Khattar government, is a winnable candidate.
 
Hisar
Hisar is going to witness a triangular clash of dynasties. The BJP has fielded Brijendra Singh, an IAS officer and son of Birender Singh, Steel Minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet. Both PM Modi and Birendra Singh have campaigned for his son. Brijendra’s great-grandfather was Sir Chotu Ram, the great peasant leader from Haryana, and this lineage could help him.
 
Against him in the fray are sitting MP Dushyant Chautala of the JJP and Congress’ Bhavya Bishnoi.
 
Bhavya is the son of Kuldeep Bishnoi who has a reputation of joining and abandoning parties, living up to his father and former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal’s epithet of ‘Aya Ram, Gaya Ram’.
 
Dushyant has become the youngest MP in the Lok Sabha elections.
 
Hisar has three families contesting against one another. No ideology, it is sheer poll math that will work here.
 
Sonipat
With the BJP winning the high-decibel Jind assembly bypoll, the saffron party is confident of winning the Sonipat parliamentary constituency. The Jind bypoll, which concluded in January this year is also an indication of a weak Congress in the seat with party national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala finishing third after JJP’s Digvijay Chautala.
 
Again, the Jind bypoll victory was significant for the BJP, which won the seat for the first time ever, wresting it from the INLD and Congress.
 
At stake is the political career of two-time former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is contesting from Sonipat.
 
Sonepat
Sonepat is seeing an exciting fight. The BJP has refielded sitting MP Ramesh Chander Kaushik in this Jat region, hoping to consolidate non-Jat votes. But with Congress fielding former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the contest has become interesting. Hooda is one of the biggest Jat leaders in Haryana.
 
The Congress, fighting for political survival, has fielded top leaders, who must prove their mettle. On the other hand, the JJP has fielded Digvijay Chautala. He may not win but could make it difficult for Hooda.
 
A former chief minister, a turncoat and a rebel scion are making for an exciting triangular contest for the Sonepat Parliamentary constituency.
 
“On paper, the two Jat candidates— Hooda and Chautala— are expected to fight for a share of over 6.70 lakh Jat votes while Kaushik, a Brahmin, can hope to corner a major share of about 1.50 lakh Brahmin votes. However, the actual contest may turn out to be totally different. Five out of the nine assembly segments in this constituency are held by Hooda loyalists, an important factor in determining the pull of the candidate. The JJP candidate, Digvijay Chautala, is heavily banking on the three assembly segments falling in Jind district. Chautala did well, finishing runners up in the recent Jind byelection. The BJP candidate relies heavily on the urban electorate in Sonepat and Jind assembly segments to prop up his prospects,” Hindustan Times reported.
 
Rohtak
Meanwhile, Bhupinder Singh's son, Deepender Hooda, is in the fray from Rohtak, and is seeking a fourth straight victory from the Hooda citadel. The Jat leader is facing competition from former MP Arvind Sharma, a prominent Brahmin leader.
 
Deepender has won thrice. Despite being a Jatland, it is the Yadavs, Brahmins and other non-Jat communities who have contributed to his victory in the past. But post-Jat agitation and BJP’s non-Jat politics, the equations could change.
 
Bhiwani
Bhiwani will see a tight contest between sitting BJP MP Dharambir and Congress’ Shruti Choudhry. Former MP from Haryana, Shruti is the granddaughter of former state chief minister Bansi Lal and daughter of Tosham MLA Kiran Choudhry. In 2014, Shruti had finished third, losing out to Dharambir by a margin of 1.3 lakh votes and Rao Bahadur Singh of INLD by a meagre 7,000 votes.
 
The infighting in the INLD might cost them their bastion with the Jat votes splitting and going to the Congress.
 
In the Bhiwani constituency, Jats form the largest majority followed by the Yadavs, Brahmins, Gurjars, Mahajans and Punjabis. With the INLD in shambles and week campaigning by its offshoot, experts suggest that Jat votes will go to the Congress and the non-Jat votes will go to the BJP.
 
Gurgaon
Three assembly constituencies of the Mewat region – Punhana, Ferozepur Jhirka and Nuh – are a part of the Gurgaon parliamentary constituency. The Mewat region is dominated by Meo Muslims and pans across north-western India, in Haryana and Alwar and Bharatpur in Rajasthan.  The INLD, which had won two assembly seats in 2014 from Mewat district, are now facing a grim situation with its Meo Muslim legislators defecting to the Congress.
 
Meanwhile, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi campaigned on the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) grounds in Gurugram in an attempt to mobilise urban voters from the Gurgaon constituency, who overwhelmingly voted for the BJP in the previous elections.
 
This has also made the fight largely bipolar – between Congress candidate Captain (retd) Ajay Singh Yadav and BJP’s sitting MP Rao Inderjit Singh – both strong Ahir (Yadav) leaders. As a result, the Yadav vote is expected to split in this seat.
 
Minister Inderjeet Singh is the tallest leader in Ahirwal area. He was Congress MP and then BJP MP. But his long tenure may trigger anti-incumbency. Six-time MLA and former minister Capt Ajay Singh Yadav is counting on Inderjeet Singh’s shortcomings but the key to the battle is Mewat, one of the most backward districts in Haryana.
 
The Gurgaon seat has more than five lakh minority votes. Inderjeet Singh could be in trouble should they vote en bloc. In the industrial town of Faridabad, the BJP is betting on Union Minister Krishan Pal Gurjar. The Congress is banking on old hand Avtar Singh Bhadana. It’s a fight between two heavyweights and AAP’s Naveen Jaihind stands little chance of a win.
 
Gurgaon, renamed Gurugram, has 21.34 lakh voters in nine assembly constituencies of southern Haryana. With total assets worth Rs 102 crore, Indian National Lok Dal’s (INLD’s) Virender Rana is the richest candidate contesting the Lok Sabha polls in Haryana from this seat.
 
Faridabad
While the AAP did not win a single seat in the 2014 general election, it managed to garner 50,000-60,000 votes on almost all seats. Even if the party is not able to wrest any seat, it is bound to pose a serious threat to contenders in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ambala and Sirsa. AAP has fielded state party chief Naveen Jaihind from Faridabad.
 
The Jat community is at loggerheads with BJP on the issue of Jat reservation and the Khattar governments actions against Jat protesters during the reservation stir.
 
Jats, who constitute 27% of the population in Haryana, have been the politically dominant force. However, the recent chasm between Jats and non-Jats seems to have changed the social fabric and the political landscape completely.
 
Congress may be pegging its campaign on its ‘Nyay’ minimum income guarantee scheme and a jobs promise, but the state BJP government’s opening up of government jobs is being seen as a major achievement.
 
The jobs have also given heft to BJP’s accusation against the Hoodas that jobs, education opportunities and development were all concentrated in their constituencies of Sonepat and Rohtak.

Polling on 118 Lok Sabha seats will be held in the remaining two phases of the parliamentary polls that end on May 19. Voting for the penultimate sixth phase of Lok Sabha polls will be held in 59 constituencies on May 12. The BJP had won 44 of these Lok Sabha seats in 2014, 46 along with its allies.

Inputs taken from Money Control and Tribune India