How will Haryana’s Jat belt vote? It’s a question that still has BJP poll managers on tenterhooks in the run-up to polling day on October 21. After consolidating its non-Jat base, the BJP is now gunning to capture Jat-dominated seats — with a targeted approach to at least 23 Assembly constituencies.
Taking no chances, the party has planned back-to-back rallies in the Jat belt despite votes of the politically dominant caste looking set for a three-way split between traditional favourites — the Congress, the INLD and its offshoot, the JJP.
On Monday, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar addressed five rallies, all in Jat dominated areas, including Beri in Jhajjar, Kalanaur in Rohtak, Samalkha in Panipat, Barwala and Hansi in Hisar. The party had even kicked off its poll campaign in the state with PM Narendra Modi’s rally in Rohtak on September 8.
Next, Union Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to address at least seven public rallies in the Jat belt. In the first round, Shah will hold rallies in Jat dominated areas covering Assembly segments of Meham, Kalanaur and former CM Bhupinder Hooda’s constituency of Garhi Sampla-Kiloi on October 9. In round two, his October 14 campaign push will cover Assembly segments of Tohana, Ratia, Narwana, Jhajjar, Barwala, Uklana and Hansi.
The party also plans to deploy its crowd-puller CMs in the Jat-dominated areas. To begin with, Yogi Adityanath will be address two rallies for party’s nominees in Jullana (Jind district) and in Sonipat on October 11.
Vijay Rahatkar, national president of BJP’s women wing, will seek votes for the party nominee Babita Phogat in Rohtak on October 12.
BJP’s national working president J P Nadda is slated to hold rallies in Haryana’s Dabwali, Rania and Kalanwali on October 13.
A three-time MLA Rampal Majra from Kaithal’s Kalayat seat, who recently joined the BJP, said, “Jat voters appear divided this time. As a political party, BJP will naturally try to woo Jat voters.” Majra remained a Devi Lal family loyalist for 40 years before quitting the INLD for BJP.
So pulling all stops, the BJP has stationed its national spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and Karnal MP Sanjay Bhatia in Rohtak. Besides, several party MPs, incumbent and former MLAs continue to criss-cross Rohtak and neigbhouring areas to ensure maximum Jat seats land in the BJP’s kitty.
Jats have at least 27 per cent vote share in Haryana. Since Haryana’s inception in 1966, 10 politicians have served as CMs with five out of them (Bansi Lal, Devi Lal, Hukam Singh, Om Prakash Chautala and Bhupinder Singh Hooda) being Jats.
While Manohar Lal Khattar is a non-Jat CM, two important Cabinet portfolios — Finance and Agriculture — are with Jat ministers, Capt Abhimanyu and Om Prakash Dhankar, respectively.
BJP sources revealed that the 23 Jat dominated seats that party is targeting in Rohtak, Hisar, Sirsa, Bhiwani, Mahendergarh, Jhajjar, Sonipat and Panipat districts this time are the ones from where it has never won.
These 23 Assembly constituencies, which BJP lost in 2014 Assembly polls, include Kaithal (Randeep Singh Surjewala’s seat), Kalayat, Kharkhauda, Gohana, Baroda, Julana, Garhi Sampla-Kiloi (Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s seat), Dabwali, Rania, Kalanwali, Ellanabad, Nalwa, Tosham, Jhajjar and Beri where the party wasn’t even at the number two position after the results.
However, shifting political winds have ensured that the winner from Julana in last elections, INLD’s Parminder Dhull, is this time with the BJP. He had then defeated Congress’ Dharmender Singh by 22,806 votes.
Similarly, in Kalanwali, SAD’s Balkaur Singh had defeated Congress’ Shishpal Keharwala by 12,965 votes. Singh too has now switched sides to the BJP.
On other seats in this list of 23, INLD’s Ravinder Baliala had defeated BJP’s Sunita Duggal by the a thin margin of 453 votes in 2014 Assembly polls. In Pehowa, INLD’s Jaswinder Singh Sandhu, who passed away in January, had defeated BJP candidate Jai Bhagwan Sharma by 9,347 votes in 2014.
Safidon had seen Independent candidate Jasbir Deswal defeat BJP’s Dr Vandana Sharma by 1,422 votes and Jind had INLD’s Dr Hari Chand Middha win after defeating BJP’s Surinder Singh by 2,257 votes. After Dr Midha’s demise, Jind went in for a bypoll and BJP fielded his son, Krishan Midha, who defeated JJP’s Digvijay Chautala by a margin of 12,935 votes. In Meham, Congress’s Anand Singh Dangi had defeated BJP’s Shamsher Singh by 9,657 votes in 2014.
This time, the BJP is hopeful of considerable support from Jat voters. On the campaign trail, party leaders have also been highlighting the issue of Article 370 as Haryana’s Jat dominated areas send a lot men to serve in the armed forces.
“We have lost a large number of jawans from Haryana while fighting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Dhankar.
Another senior BJP leader said, “We do not do caste politics. But as far as vote patterns are concerned or specific caste loyalties to certain leaders are concerned, Jat vote is bound to split among Congress, INLD and JJP. That does not mean that BJP will not get Jat votes. The way the BJP had been increasing its vote share in Haryana since 2014 and has achieved over 58 per cent in recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, the figures speak for themselves.”