Reminiscent of the time when Arvind Kejriwal made repeated forays into Punjab convinced that the state was ready to embrace a third party, the Aam Admi Party convenor spent more than a week in Haryana, fuelling talk of new alliances and caste equations. Assembly elections are due in Haryana in October 2019, but may be held along with parliamentary polls. Kejriwal, who stepped back from the 2014 Haryana polls after failing to win a single seat in the state in the Lok Sabha polls, seems to be preparing in right earnest for the fight this time.
From November 17 to November 25, the Delhi Chief Minister had five programmes in Haryana, each in a different district. Last Sunday, he was in Jind town where residents have been on a dharna since long opposing enhancement charges for plots allotted by Haryana Shaheri Vikas Pradhikaran (earlier HUDA). On the same day, he went to meet family of a farmer in Panipat district who had died “because of heart attack following crop failure”.
In Sonipat district, he visited martyred BSF jawan Narender Singh’s family for the second time, this time with a cheque of Rs 1 crore. When the jawan was killed two months ago, Kejriwal arrived at his home to pay his condolences to the family two days ahead of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The Haryana government gave the family Rs 50 lakh.
“We are here to change the style of politics,” Haryana AAP chief Naveen Jaihind told The Indian Express. But whatever the intention, Kejriwal has also signalled that he is not above some old ways either.
Earlier, the AAP leader was vocal in his criticism of traditional Haryana parties for seeking votes in the name of caste, but he recently praised INLD faction leader Dushyant Chautala, fuelling talks of a possible alliance between the two.
Dushyant’s younger brother Digvijay Chautala had earlier stated that the “AAP has a (support) base” and “that like-minded people can come together”. However, Dushyant Wednesday told The Indian Express that “ let us form a (political) outfit first”. Dushyant’s associate, Dalbir Dhankar, said, “No talks have taken place between leaders of both parties regarding a poll alliance. Currently, we are focusing on our Jind rally proposed on December 9 when a new party would be announced”.Hisar-based political commentator Rishi Saini said an alliance between AAP and Dushyant Chautala faction would help both — AAP would benefit from Dushyant’s Jat supporters, and the INLD leader from AAP’s likely non-Jat supporters.
Kejriwal has been trying to push his way into Haryana through the leverage his government has in the National Captial Region, which now includes 13 out of total 22 districts of Haryana is 57% of the state’s area. “Lakhs of people from Haryana and Delhi daily commute from one place to another because of different objectives especially to attend their work places apart from family ties between the people of both states. So, the good works done by Kejriwal government in Delhi especially in the areas of health and education are bound to have impact on Haryana residents,” said Jaihind, whose wife Swati Maliwal is chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women.
Jaihind claimed AAP has 1 lakh members of the party, including 5,000 volunteers. He also said the AAP has an organsiational network in place already at the levels of Assembly constituencies, Lok Sabha segments and districts. From its Haryana state headquarters in Rohtak, AAP teams work social media on state specific issues.
Kejriwal himself belongs to Siwani town of Haryana’s Bhiwani district.
“Kejriwal may get support from a section of his Baniya community in Haryana. Most of the voters of this community, who live in urban areas, voted for BJP last time. Kejriwal is also wooing the Scheduled Castes, a traditional support base of Congress”.
While Kejriwal’s activity in Haryana brought him attention, it has also brought with it the question that haunted AAP in Punjab. Who is its chief ministerial candidate in the state? “Kejriwal wants to become Haryana CM as in Delhi he is heading a powerless government,” said Saini, the Hisar based commentator. Kejriwal had told The Indian Express in September in response to the same question that “let us form the government first”.
The AAP leader will be addressing rallies in Narnaul and Faridabad next week. Haryana’s ruling BJP terms “Kejriwal’s tours to the state as an attempt to divert attention of people at a time when his party is facing split in Punjab”. “Instead of fulfiling promises made to the people of Delhi, Kejriwal is running away from his responsibility,” said Rajiv Jain, Media Advisor to the Haryana CM.
Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj India’s Haryana unit president Rajiv Godara said, “On one hand, Arvind Kejriwal says he will contest the elections on the issue of education but at the same time, he appreciates Dushyant Chautala, whose father Ajay Chautala is undergoing ten year jail imprisonment for a scam in the recruitment of teachers for government schools.”