In less than a week after dumping its ruling coalition ally, the Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), the BJP on June 2 announced that it will contest the state civic polls in alliance with the JJP on a seat-sharing basis.
The BJP’s turnaround on the issue came soon after the JJP’s announcement of its support to Kartikeya Sharma, son of media baron and ex-Congress leader Venod Sharma, who filed his nomination as an Independent candidate from the state for the June 10 Rajya Sabha election.
All the 10 JJP MLAs in the 90-member Haryana Assembly have announced their support to Sharma’s candidature. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also Saturday announced: “Now, since the situation is clear and (Rajya Sabha) nominations etc have been filed and our 31 MLAs are adequate to support the party’s nominee Krishan Panwar, the remaining 9 MLAs of BJP shall support the Independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma.”
A few Independent MLAs are also likely to support Sharma. And, if some of the total 31 Congress MLAs indulge in cross-voting, or if a few votes are held invalid for any reasons, the grand old party’s nominee Ajay Maken’s prospects of making it to the Upper House may be put in jeopardy, given that 31 votes are needed for ensuring a candidate’s success in this election.
In their June 2 joint press conference, Haryana BJP chief Om Prakash Dhankar and the JJP’s state president Nishan Singh and its youth leader Digvijay Chautala announced that they will contest the civic polls together, with the BJP fighting in 14 municipal councils (MCs) and the JJP contesting the remaining four.
BJP sources told The Indian Express that the JJP was mounting pressure on the party for contesting the civic polls together. However, when the BJP assessed that the polls could go in its favour due to a split in the anti-incumbency votes as the AAP was also making an entry to contest the polls on its party symbol, it dumped the JJP. Sources said the party later made a U-turn close on the heels of getting the JJP to support Sharma’s Rajya Sabha nomination for a “larger aim to block the Congress candidate’s Rajya Sabha bid”.
“If Congress fails to get Ajay Maken through to Rajya Sabha, it will be a huge embarrassment for Bhupinder Hooda (Leader of Opposition and ex-CM) who is consistently getting more and more powerful in Haryana Congress. Especially with Congress high command virtually giving him a free hand in Haryana, if Maken loses the Rajya Sabha battle; the onus will be on Hooda. That is the reason Deepender Hooda (Bhupinder’s son) has been assigned the task to keep the party’s flock of MLAs together for which he took them all to a five-star resort at Raipur in Chhatisgarh”, a senior BJP leader told the Express.
On Sharma’s nomination and the JJP’s backing of his candidature, Dhankar said, “Congress is scared and has therefore taken its MLAs to a (Raipur) resort. The lions of BJP and JJP are here only. We both shall do our best to stop Congress. There is a tradition in politics to stop the opponent. Thus, we shall do whatever we can to stop the Congress.”
Despite the objections raised by its senior party leaders, including Kiran Choudhry (Tosham MLA), Kuldeep Bishnoi (Adampur MLA) and Capt Ajay Yadav (former minister and Rewari MLA), the Congress has meanwhile announced that it will not contest the municipal polls on the party symbol.
Dhankar, however, also cited another reason why the BJP changed its mind and went back with the JJP for the civic polls. “When we discussed the MC polls in our election committee, we found that Congress packed its bags and went out of the race. We realised that at most of the places, BJP and JJP candidates were pitched against each other. Thus, in light of the changed circumstances, we sat together (BJP and JJP), discussed and decided that we should go to the field together. When most of the other players have already opted out of the race, it should not be that we both (allies) are contesting against each other. Thus, we decided on a 14 (BJP) and 4(JJP) seat-sharing arrangement,” he said. Both the allies have left the decision over contesting the 28 municipal committees on their district units.
Nishan Singh said, “Our national convener Dr Ajay Chautala had released the list of our candidates, but then we got calls from our ally that we should rethink. Thus, we met and decided to contest the polls together.”
On its part, the Congress, while keeping its fingers crossed, is not taking any chances. Having ferried their MLAs to Raipur, both Bhupinder Hooda and state Congress chief Uday Bhan have made it clear that any cross-voting by any MLA in the Rajya Sabha poll would not go well with the party high command and may trigger disciplinary action.