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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Haryana’s in the bag — for now

Even before the game began,the Opposition parties in Haryana (BJP,INLD,HJC and BSP) began to realise that the race for 90 seats in the Haryana Assembly is almost closed.

Written by RAHUL VERMA |
October 12, 2009 4:17:17 am

Even before the game began,the Opposition parties in Haryana (BJP,INLD,HJC and BSP) began to realise that the race for 90 seats in the Haryana Assembly is almost closed. So,the counting on October 22 is not a fight for government formation,but a test of survival and Opposition leadership.

The Congress is expected to repeat the success of Election 2005,amid a disarrayed and divided opposition. The party is riding high on Hooda’s popularity and his government’s performance. The National Election Study (NES) 2009 conducted by Lokniti,CSDS reveals that Hooda was rated by 32 per cent of respondents as the top choice for CM’s post and Chautala remained runner up with just 14 per cent approval. More than 60 per cent expressed satisfaction with the Hooda government’s performance. Even a majority of NDA voters were satisfied with the state government’s performance. The Congress is seen as a party capable of improving law and order situation by 41 per cent respondents whereas 31 per cent expressed no opinion. And if the Lok Sabha results were any referendum on the government’s performance,the Congress swept the state,defying conventional wisdom that the party tends to give way when up against a strong alliance. The INLD and its ally BJP barely managed a lead in seven assembly segments each,whereas the Congress led in fifty-nine. The BSP and Bhajan Lal’s HJC were ahead in eight and nine assembly segments respectively in May 2009.

However the twist in the story is in the long view — traditional caste arithmetic has gone awry and political parties in Haryana are desperately seeking new equations. The marginalisation of Bansi Lal’s Haryana Vikas Party has contributed a great deal towards the current shift,as a section of the Jat community (around 28 per cent of the population),which so far backed the HVP,found itself at the crossroads. Hooda’s timely effort to emerge as a focal point of this peasant community has enhanced the Congress share among Jats by 17 per cent since the 2005 election.

But the Congress must seriously think over its assiduous wooing of Jats,as it fuels a sense of caste discrimination,and consolidates traditional Congress voters among Punjabis,Dalits,Sikhs and Banias against it. Hooda’s plan of edging out INLD from the Jat frame and letting HJC-BSP and BJP fight for a slice from the same non-Jat votes may prove fatal in the long run as the ruling party has lost nearly one-third of its support among the Dalits (around 19 per cent of the state population). The principal beneficiary of Dalit desertion was the BSP,which posted a significant swing of 35 points in its favour. The BSP has developed tremendous damage potential,as it has crossed the threshold of viability in the last Lok Sabha elections by garnering around 16 per cent of votes. Some may believe that the BSP has lost steam since May and the votes do not correlate to the party’s strength on the ground. But if events unfold in sync with its social engineering formulas of courting Rors in Karnal,Meos in Gurgaon and Faribad,Rajputs in Bhiwani,Sainis in Kurukshetra,Brahmins in Rohtak and Banias in Hisar,the party would have much more than what the BSP supremo has projected in multi-cornered contests,as the victory margins could be small.

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The BJP needs to worry,because so far it sailed through because of its ability to complement HVP and INLD votes. The INLD’s last hopes rest on its understanding with the Akali Dal swaying Sikh voters,and Hooda has countered this by announcing that on November 1,Haryana would get its own Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee to manage the 72-odd gurudwaras and other Sikh institutions in the state. Sikhs are in sizeable population in at least ten assembly segments. The veteran Bhajan Lal is busy preparing the ground for his successor in Hisar and is approaching Ahirs in Mahendergarh,Gurgaon,Punjabis in Faridabad,Karnal and Kurukshetra and Balmikis in Ambala in his last battle.

Despite rebellion and some disenchantment with incumbents,things look safe for the Congress in the absence of a strong ‘open’ alliance. The tactical understandings between HJC-BJP and HJC- INLD are not worrying,as they merely ensure the victory of a few prominent family trees. But overconfidence might blind the chief minister from seeing future implications of this election. As the call for a non-Jat CM will doubtless run deep in the Congress,the party may find it difficult to keep its present social composition intact.

The writer is with Lokniti,CSDS.

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