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Cong withdrawal gives AAP an opening in Haryana civic polls

Elections were held in 46 municipal bodies across Haryana, with results to be declared on June 22. The Congress did not field any candidates, though some are contesting with the party's support.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh |
Updated: June 21, 2022 8:49:38 am
Haryana civic polls, Haryana AAP, Haryana Congress, Congress withdrawal from Haryana, Haryana polls, Political Pulse, Indian expressVoters at Meham on Sunday. (Express photo by Manoj Dhaka)

The Congress’ decision to not contest the Haryana municipal polls held on Sunday is set to benefit the Aam Aadmi Party in its debut civic election in the state.

Elections were held in 46 municipal bodies across Haryana, with results to be declared on June 22. The Congress did not field any candidates, though some are contesting with the party’s support. While the ruling BJP-JJP coalition is upbeat about is chances, AAP is hoping to gain from the Congress step in a state that remains one of its prime targets, sandwiched between the two states ruled by it – Delhi and Punjab.

The Congress has cited non-availability of organisational cadre at the district and booth levels for its decision. While the biggest party in the state after the BJP, the Congress has been severely hamstrung by unending infighting, as a result of which it has not been able to elect organisational units at grass-root levels for over seven-eight years. The party’s Haryana affairs in-charge Vivek Bansal said the process was on, as laid out at the recent Chintan Shivir held by it.

While Congress Legislative Party leader and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda justified the decision, saying the party had never contested civic polls on its symbol, and that it would have been unwise to do so now given the lack of organised cadre, fellow party leaders have questioned the move. This is particularly the case as the Congress can ill-afford to cede any political space in a state where it still has a fighting chance.

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Among those who have registered their dissent are Tosham MLA Kiran Choudhry and former minister Capt Ajay Singh Yadav, apart from now rebel MLA Kuldeep Bishnoi. While the Congress removed Bishnoi from all party positions after the recent Rajya Sabha polls where he defied the party line, Chaudhry’s role in the elections where the party suffered a humiliating result is also under a cloud.

Meanwhile, AAP is enjoying the Congress’s discomfiture. The party that suffered a washout in both the 2019 Assembly polls and Lok Sabha elections in Haryana, in its first serious foray into the state, fancies its chances after its massive victory in Punjab and the Congress “walkover”.

In the 2019 Assembly polls, where the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP contested 46 out of 90 constituencies, it had won none, with most of its candidates failing to save their security deposits and many getting less than 1,000 votes. Its vote share of 0.48% was lower than 0.53% for NOTA. It had fared no better in the Lok Sabha polls, which it contested in alliance with Dushyant Chautala’s JJP.

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AAP sources told The Indian Express that by contesting on its own symbol in Haryana in a big way, the party hopes to keep a hold on its cadre. An unexpected bonus has been the protests over the Centre’s Agnipath scheme, with Haryana one of the states where youths have taken to the streets. AAP also hopes that the remnant anger over the farmer protests and anti-incumbency against the BJP government will also help it.

A senior AAP leader said that whatever the party’s tally in the polls, it would be an indicator of the “sliding graph” of the BJP-JJP coalition and AAP would at least capture the space that Congress used to hold as the main opposition.

The BJP-JJP, which has shared the seats 14:4 in municipal councils and left the decision to district-level cadres on the 28 municipal committees, promised a large number of incentives and infrastructure upgradation measures in attempts to woo the electorate.

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A senior BJP leader admitted that while Assembly elections were still two years away, the civic polls were important as they would reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the party.

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First published on: 20-06-2022 at 01:38:56 pm

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