The BJP’s poor performance in Haryana has its roots in voters in core Jat belts of Sonipat, Jhajjar and Rohtak supporting the Congress or the Dushant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party. Preliminary analysis shows that core Jat voters from Sonipat, Jhajjar and Rohtak voted overwhelmingly against the BJP, resulting in defeat of five of its six main Jat leaders.
Except one Jat leader, all five legislators from the community fielded by BJP have lost. These include Finance Minister Captain Abhimanyu (Narnaund), Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister Om Prakash Dhankar (Badli) and BJP state chief Subhash Barala (Tohana). Rajya Sabha MP Birender Singh’s wife, Prem Lata, lost from Uchana Kalan to JJP’s Dushyant Chautala by more than 47,000 votes. Sukhvinder Mandi from Badhra too bit the dust. Only Mahipal Dhanda was able to retain his Panipat Rural seat.
Despite failing to break the Congress stronghold — the Deswali or Jat-dominated belt of the state — BJP pocketed Rai seat in Sonipat. Congress won in 11 seats while in the northern part of Haryana, comprising Panchkula, Ambala, Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra and Panipat, it picked up 10 or more seats. The BJP held on to its Jind seat and did well in some pockets of southern Haryana and in Faridabad district.
Presently, BJP has won 31 seats and is leading in 9 seats, with the Congress snapping at its heels at 24. It is presently leading in 7 seats while the Dushyant Chautala-led JJP has won 10 seats and is emerging as a kingmaker in case neither BJP nor Congress manages an absolute majority.
The key Jat belt –– comprising 36 assembly seats extending across four parliamentary constituencies –– holds the key to Haryana elections but BJP had shown in 2014 that tapping into the non-Jat votes can pay rich dividends. The Jat community forms 27 per cent of the state’s population and Hisar, Bhiwani, Mahendragarh, Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonipat, Sirsa, Jind and Kaithal form the heart of Haryana’s Jat belt.
In the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, the BJP made a clean sweep by winning all 10 seats in Haryana, getting 58.21 per cent of the votes, making it clear that a good number of Jat farmers and peasants had voted for the saffron party.
However, in the Assembly elections, it has become clear that the core Jat votebase has stayed with Congress, OP Chautala’s INLD or JJP. It also seems that non-Jats, who were instrumental in BJP forming its first-ever government in Haryana in 2014, voted for different parties in the assembly elections.
What seems to have precipitated this mistrust for BJP is the Jat reservation agitation. The agitation, aimed at their inclusion in the Other Backward Classes (OBC), spawned violence across the Rohtak region for almost ten days, resulting in at least 30 deaths and extensive damage to property. The government finally gave in and Jats got the OBC status. But the Punjab and Haryana High Court set aside the quota soon after.
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