Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda faces a tough task of retaining power for the third consecutive time by overcoming a strong saffron wave and stiff opposition from the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
He also has to face the newly formed Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) and Jan Chetna Party alliance, while the BSP has announced a new leadership. In this scenario, the state seemed to be heading towards a multi-cornered contest. Polling will be held on October 15.
The ruling Congress, that was reduced to a minority in 2009 Assembly polls, successfully completed its five-year term on the shoulders of seven independents who supported the government and by poaching five of the six HJC MLAs. Later, the five HJC MLAs dumped party chief Kuldeep Bishnoi to join Congress.
The Lok Sabha election results changed the political scenario as the Congress, which earlier had nine out of 10 seats, was reduced to one seat in this year’s election. The BJP contested eight seats of which it won seven while the HJC, its alliance partner, lost both the seats it contested. Bishnoi faced a humiliating defeat in his home constituency of Hisar where Dushyant Chautala, grandson of INLD chief Om
Prakash Chautala, trounced him to become the youngest MP from the state. The INLD won two seats.
The Lok Sabha poll results led to acrimony among the alliance partners and after strong objections from the state unit, the BJP high command started ignoring Bishnoi and refused to honour the previously agreed terms of the alliance. This was not acceptable to Bishnoi and he snapped ties with the party and announced a tie-up with Jan Chetna Party led by former Union minister Venod Sharma.
Sharma, who had once been Hooda’s Man Friday, had quit the Congress and after he failed to tie up with the BJP or HJC, because of a tweet against his joining by senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, he formed his own party.
The INLD is in high spirits after winning two seats in a saffron wave and under adverse circumstances, as Chautala himself and his elder son Ajay Chautala are in jail in the JBT teachers recruitment scam. The INLD has declared Chautala its chief ministerial candidate and will field him from Uchana Kalan, where he defeated former veteran Congress leader Birender Singh in the last Assembly polls. However, with no legal relief in sight for the Chautalas, the party may have to redraft its poll strategy.
The BJP has already handed the ticket from here to Singh’s wife Prem Lata while the Chautalas have announced that this seat would be contested by a family member, either by Chautala’s wife Sneh Lata or Ajay’s wife Naina.
BSP chief Mayawati has experimented with her social engineering in the state and after poaching former Karnal Congress MP Arvind Sharma, she gave him command of the state unit and declared him chief ministerial candidate.
Hooda faces strong opposition within his own party as well. A number of senior leaders have deserted the party while more are ready to jump out of the sinking Congress ship. The party is under attack for corruption, poor law and order, weak administration, nepotism, lopsided development among other issues.
The CM, however, exuded confidence. “The Congress government has done tremendous work in the state. There has been massive development in the last 10 years. The development in these 10 years was even more than the development witnessed by the state in the last 60 years,” he said.
Things have changed in the opposition camp, too, after the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP, that never succeeded in coming to power on its own in the past, is hoping to romp home riding the Narendra Modi wave. Enough trouble has come to the fore after the BJP announced its first list of 43 candidates. The break-up with Bishnoi has weakening both the BJP and HJC. The INLD also faces a leadership crisis with the Chautalas in jail.