THE OUTCOME of the Assembly bypoll in Jind has sent many signals, settled some debates and posed a new set of questions to the main players — the winner BJP, the INLD factions and a red-faced Congress — ahead of the Lok Sabha and Haryana elections.
Primarily, the result could prompt the BJP to advance the Assembly elections due in October and hold it along with Lok Sabha elections, after its nominee Krishan Middha defeated Digvijay Singh Chautala of Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), a breakaway outfit of INLD, by 12,930 votes.
The Congress, which turned this poll into a high-profile battle by fielding its national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, finished a distant, and embarrassing, third with 22,742 votes.
The BJP managed to secure the non-Jat votes — Middha is from the Punjabi community — to score a morale-boosting win in the poll season. But the 13,582 votes polled by Vinod Ashri, fielded by party rebel Raj Kumar Saini’s new political outfit Loktantra Suraksha Party, has come as an irritant. The message is it cannot take the non-Jat votes, especially from the Saini segment, for granted.
Following the victory, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “I thank the people of Jind for blessing @BJP4Haryana. This is a seat where the Party has never won before. Glad to see the development agenda of BJP finding support among all sections of society. I congratulate the Haryana BJP and CM @mlkhattar for assiduously serving the people.”
For the Congress, the big setback will deepen factional faultlines in its state unit. After ruling the state till five years ago, it has to now come to terms with the continuing non-Jat consolidation that saw the BJP storm to power after being a fringe player.
The result also means that the Opposition party will have to recaliberate its strategy. Former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda had been mounting pressure for a leadership change, seeking the reins either for himself or a person of his choice, presumably a Jat, to replace state chief Ashok Tanwar, who is a Dalit.
But now, the Congress leadership will have to evaluate whether handing over the reins to a Jat leader would be a judicious strategy. It has the option of continuing with Tanwar or replace him with a non-Jat face, but such a move would not go well with Hooda, arguably the tallest Jat leader in the party.
The result is also a personal setback for Surjewala, the high-flying party communication department head. He could not rally the Jat votes, which got divided between him, Digvijay Singh Chautala and INLD’s Umed Singh. With three Jat candidates in the fray, the BJP candidate — son of former Jind MLA Hari Chand Middha whose death necessitated the bypoll — had it easy.
What has added to the party’s woes is the buzz that some of its prominent state leaders wanted Surjewala, who is seen as close to Rahul Gandhi, to lose. This internal tension is expected to spill over in the coming days.
The result was a big setback for the INLD, too, after it made the bypoll a prestige battle. JJP’s Digvijay Singh Chautala has emerged as the claimant of its Jat vote bank. He secured 37,648 votes while the INLD candidate Umed Singh could manage just 3,454 to forfeit his deposit.
The fight between Om Prakash Chautala’s elder son Ajay Singh Chautala and his younger brother Abhay Singh Chautala for the legacy of INLD founder Chaudhary Devi Lal is all but settled. The JJP was floated only last month by Ajay Singh Chautala, who is in jail with his father. Digvijay is the son of Ajay Singh Chautala. His brother Dushyant is the Lok Sabha MP from Hisar.
The AAP, which has electoral ambitions in Haryana, had supported the JJP. It is to be seen whether the two will seal an electoral deal. The INLD had earlier announced an electoral understanding with the BSP. But with its candidate finishing fifth, it remains to be seen whether the BSP will have a change of heart.