The battlelines are drawn in Haryana, with candidates decided, and the contest is unpredictable with four major players in the fray.
With the Congress battling 10 years of anti-incumbency, the BJP forming an uneasy alliance with the Haryana Janhit Congress, main opposition the Indian National Lok Dal in disarray with its two top leaders behind bars, and the Aam Aadmi Party looking to carry on from its Delhi performance, political equations in the state are constantly changing.
The BSP, Trinamool Congress and a few independents could also play significant roles in the elections.
Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda finds himself in an difficult position with party stalwarts being reluctant to enter the poll fray and a few key leaders joining the BJP. Young Dalit leader Kumari Selja, the sitting Lok Sabha MP from Ambala preferred the easy way by managing a Rajya Sabha seat, while Rao Inderjit Singh and chief parliamentary secretary Dharambir have left the Congress to contest on BJP tickets from Gurgaon and Bhiwani-Mahendergarh respectively.
State Congress chief Ashok Tanwar was reluctant to contest from Sirsa and senior minister Capt Ajay Singh Yadav declined his Lok Sabha ticket in favour of his son from Gurgaon, but the party instead decided to field a sitting MLA.
The party suffered another setback when a close confidant of Hooda, MLA Venod Sharma, quit the party hoping to contest the elections for the HJC. The BJP, however, prevailed on its alliance partner to deny him the ticket and he may contest as an independent.
Interestingly, the Congerss has fielded six sitting MPs and three sitting MLAs and a former MLA from the 10 seats in the state despite anti-incumbency.
The main opposition in the state is struggling with its own problems. INLD patriarch and former chief minister Om Parkash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala are in jail and debarred from contesting elections. Om Parkash Chautala’s younger son Abhay and grandson Dushyant have taken over the reins of the party and are hoping for “sympathy” votes.
The INLD, which had been contesting past elections in alliance with the BJP, has already declared that it will back Narendra Modi in Prime Ministerial race.
But INLD was not spoilt for choice either. Barring first-timer Dushyant, all its candidates are veteran MPs or MLAs.
Though the BJP and the HJC have cobbled up an alliance agreeing to contest eight and two seats respectively, it remains an uneasy alliance. While HJC chief Kuldeep Bishnoi was the obvious choice from Hisar, it was the other constituency (Karnal) that has been the subject of disagreement. Bishnoi offered it to Venod Sharma, but then BJP leader Sushma Swaraj opposed it.
The seat was then offered to Bishnoi’s elder brother Chander Mohan, former deputy chief minister of Haryana, who was in controversy over his relationship with Fiza. This move too backfired with opposition from party workers.
The BJP too faced problems in finding candidates and five of its eight candidates have their roots in Congress.
The AAP, which thinks its best bet is in Haryana, could find it difficult to repeat its Delhi performance. It may pose a challenge in NCR, particularly in Gurgaon from where party stalwart Yogendra Yadav is contesting, but given the caste and other factors, the party is up for a tough time.
The BSP, which is contesting all 10 seats, and a number of independents shall bring up the rear, but the Lok Sabha results would be most keenly watched by Hooda who is to face assembly elections in October this year.