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The Haryana ring: Can BJP hold on to the state it won for the first time in 2014?

Haryana is already seeing a rectangular political battles with both Congress and INLD kicking off big campaigns and AAP entering the fray as a surprise player.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 16, 2018, 06.42 AM IST
The INLD already has an alliance with BSP which has always notched up a 4-5% vote share in Haryana, while former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda is strongly pitching to the Congress to declare him as the face.
Haryana BJP President Subhash Barala had a hearty laugh when asked why the Congress and Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) have assumed that the BJP would be dislodged from power in the state in 2019 and the only issue left to be debated was that who among them would be doing so.

“Parties who are fighting for their own survival in the state and at the national level are daydreaming,” Barala said. “We are not going anywhere.” Haryana is a small state with 10 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP won the assembly elections for the first time in 2014, on the back of a huge Lok Sabha victory in the country five months before the state polls. The BJP then had won seven out of the 10 Lok Sabha seats from Haryana, reversing from the situation of 2009 when the Congress won nine seats.

With less than a year to go for the next Lok Sabha elections and 16 months before state polls, Haryana is already seeing one of the most hotly contested rectangular political battles with both the Congress and INLD kicking off big campaigns and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) entering the fray as a surprise player in Arvind Kejriwal’s home state. The long-delayed Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) that is to bring water to Haryana is again a big issue. The INLD already has an alliance with Mayawati’s BSP which has always notched up a 4-5% vote share in Haryana, while former two-time chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is strongly pitching to the Congress to declare him as the face or risk allowing the INLD to steal the march and cash in what the opposition terms as CM Manohar Lal’s “unpopularity”.

A 22-phase Yatra across Haryana, a big public meeting of over one lakh people every 15 days and spending 3-5 days in each district — that is the grand plan drawn up by former CM Hooda. He has already completed two phases of the Yatras, from Palwal and Panipat.

The plan is to not stop for the next six months as public mobilisation has been encouraging. But Hooda seems to have another big battle at hand, inside his own party, to get him appointed as the state Congress president, which would pave his way to be the de-facto CM face. “Five Congress leaders are fighting to be the face: PCC president Ashok Tanvar, Hooda, Randeep Surjewala, Kumari Selja and Kiran Choudhary.

It is a leadership ki ladai (battle), not a ladai for the people,” said Abhay Chautala, who is leading INLD’s campaign. According to BJP’s Barala, “Hooda’s rallies are merely to establish his own varchasva (standing) inside the Congress.” Clearly, both the BJP and INLD, stung by Hooda’s resurgence, are currently suffering from a ‘Hooda-Phobia’, said the former CM’s son and MP from Rohtak, Deepender Hooda. “Both parties keep targeting him. Even (BJP chief) Amit Shah at his last Jind rally targeted my father in his speech and told people that their slogans should reach Hooda’s ears.” He, however, steered clear on the leadership question. “The Congress stands united with its national leadership and ideology. As far as the state leadership is concerned, I am confident that the Congress high command will take a right decision, at a right time, and such a decision will ensure that everyone comes together and the Congress sweeps to victory here,” Deepender Hooda said.

Caste equations are being pitched to the Congress leadership for Hooda’s projection as the party face. The Congress’ decline in 2014 is attributed to the 32% vote-bank of Jats and Jat Sikhs moving to the BJP.

“This community relates most closely to Bhupinder Hooda and will return to the Congress if he is made the face. Otherwise, we may lose them to the INLD which is already telling Jats and Jat Sikhs that Hooda will not be projected so INLD is their choice,” a source in the Hooda camp said.


Abhay Chautala of the INLD told ET that not just Jats and Jat Sikhs, but the sizeable Dalit community was also with the INLD-BSP alliance. “So, over 50% of Haryana’s people are already with us. There is no contest,” he claimed. In the 2014 assembly elections, the Congress got 20.6% of the votes, while the INLD won 24.1%. The BSP separately got another 4.4% votes. The Hooda camp claims the BSP could shift to the Congress alliance if Hooda is made the face. “We all saw the bonhomie between Mayawati and Sonia Gandhi ji on stage in Karnataka,” a leader said.

The INLDs campaign is focussed on the SYL issue and aims to put the BJP in the dock in the state as well as the Centre for not executing a Supreme Court order of 2016 to build the canal in Punjab to ensure Satluj water flows into Haryana. Abhay Chautala is leading rallies across the state to give arrests of thousands of people, calling SYL “the biggest emotive issue in Haryana” for which his father Om Prakash Chautala and grandfather Chaudhary Devi Lal fought. “We have met the PM, the home minister, the President. Nothing has happened. We symbolically blocked highways from Punjab also for one day but no one is listening. The BJP is not executing an SC order even as the (ruling) Congress in Punjab is blocking the SYL Canal,” Chautala said.

With farmers the biggest vote block in Haryana, SYL is a major issue. The BJP says the INLD is playing a bluff. “When it is clear now that SYL water will finally and certainly come to Haryana as nothing can stop the same after an SC order, INLD’s campaign is aimed at getting credit. Yeh Ungli Kat Ke Shahid Hona Chahte Hain. I want I ask what did the INLD or Congress do on SYL when they were in power in Haryana before us,” BJP’s Barala asked.

The SYL issue is also threatening to cut short AAP’s chances in Haryana even as Arvind Kejriwal has decided to contest all seats in Haryana, which is his home state, and held a few public meetings here. All other parties are already citing Kejriwal’s statement during the Punjab elections in 2016 that “Punjab has no water to spare and no water will go out of Punjab”. That statement has rendered the AAP as a “no factor” in Haryana, multiple leaders of other parties told ET.


BJP’s strategy seems to be countering opposition’s charges on CM Manohar Lal’s ‘ineffectiveness’ with the charges of corruption and fraud against former CMs like Om Prakash Chautala, who is in jail after being convicted for 10 years in a recruitment scam. The Dhingra commission report that has gone into controversial land allocations to Robert Vadra in the tenure of Hooda could be made public soon after the Punjab and Haryana High Court decides on the former CM’s petition that the commission was set up by the Manohar Lal government in an irregular manner.

“Our CM is not corrupt — there is not a single accusation on that count against him. In comparison, look at the record of the former CMs of Haryana,” Shah said at his Jind rally in February. Abhay Chautala says there was “no doubt” that his father Om Prakash Chautala would be the next Chief Minister of Haryana. “So will we have a CM ruling from jail,” asks the BJP.

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