The Election Commission has declared the much-awaited poll dates for the upcoming state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana with the states slated to go to polls on October 21. Haryana, in particular, is going to witness an unprecedented pro-incumbency wave as CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s stupendous track record has set the ball rolling for a resounding BJP win. The BJP has been helped by virtually no opposition in the state as the likes of Congress, INLD and JJP lie in a state of quandary and none of them looking like they can take on the BJP in the state anytime soon.
The Bharatiya Janta Party had little presence in Haryana before the Modi wave swept the state in the 2014 LS elections. This had a domino effect and the party also won the state elections held almost immediately after the LS elections. The party sprung a huge surprise by appointing a non-Jat and a Punjabi Manohar Lal Khattar as the Chief Minister in a state where the Jats enjoyed an unprecedented hold. Initially, the little known Khattar found the going tough in Haryana especially during the violent Jat agitation which nearly resulted in Khattar losing his job. He was honest enough to admit that his first year in office was a learning curve and now was the time to deliver and the BJP’s decision to project Khattar as the face of their campaign is a testament to the fact that the Khattar government is immensely popular in Haryana.
Khattar has largely steered away from any taints of corruption and has emerged as a ‘clean’ face which is refreshing given the fact that the state was plagued with rampant corruption under the successive Hooda and Chautala administrations. The Khattar government has focused on the vacancies in government jobs and has managed to fill 69,000 vacancies while also focusing on last-mile delivery of Central schemes like Ujjwala and Ayushmann Bharat which saw BJP’s vote share rise from 34% in 2014 to a whopping 58% in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections and the party was leading in 79 assembly seats out of the total 90 seats in the LS elections which have prompted Amit Shah to set a target of 75+ seats in Haryana.
The party has engineered a non-Jat consolidation post the Jat Agitation of 2016 which has delivered rich rewards for the party. The weakening of Jat stronghold on the state with Khattar as the CM has seen the likes of INLD and Congress suffer massively as the non-Jats consolidated behind the BJP and the party recently conquered the mayoral elections in Haryana and the Jind By-poll which it won for the first time where the Congress, INLD and JJP fielded Jat candidates while BJP fielded a Punjabi candidate. The BJP’s foothold is so strong in the state that all the INLD candidates lost their deposits in the LS elections while the JJP barring its supremo Dushyant Chautala, also saw all of their candidates losing their deposits. The Indian National Congress also lost its strongholds of Rohtak and Sonipat and while it finished second in Faridabad and Karnal, their candidates were trailing the BJP by over 6,00,000 votes each – a sign that the BJP is comfortably placed to register a sweeping victory in the state elections.
The Opposition has been marred with infighting and disunity and no one seems capable enough to pose a threat to the BJP at this stage. Congress’s belated attempt tore place Ashok Tanwar, a close aide of Rahul Gandhi with Kumari Selja as the State Party President and ex-CM Bhupinder Hooda as the campaign face is unlikely to deliver any significant gains to the party. Bhupinder Hooda is focusing his efforts to keep his flock together rather than putting up a fight against the BJP.
It’s interesting to note that Hooda had to face a humiliating defeat in the LS elections which caught many by surprise. The Congress camp is confused and appears to be directionless and rudderless as it heads to yet another embarrassing defeat in Haryana. The INLD which used to be the biggest regional party is struggling to stay relevant ever since Dushyant Chautala broke away from it and formed the JJP. Neither Congress nor INLD is keen on a coalition which is likely to spell the death knell for the latter as it simply cannot afford another election where the majority of its candidates lose their deposits.
The BJP’s anti-Jat consolidation has hurt the INLD the most with the party seeing its vote share plummet to a meagre 1.9% in 2019 from 25% in 2014. The JJP tried to stitch up a coalition with the AAP in Lok Sabha election where the coalition was wiped out and hence the parties severed their ties. The JJP’s attempt to form a coalition with the BSP for the assembly elections has failed with both the parties deciding to go solo. Neither the JJP, AAP or the BSP has the organisational strength to take on the BJP and are likely to end up as fringe players in the assembly elections. What is glaring that there is no attempt by the opposition parties to pose a challenge to the BJP.
The BJP, on the other hand, has projected CM Khattar as the poster boy of its campaign which is a refreshing change from the past where the party had to rely heavily on Modi factor to win the elections. The recent move to abrogate Article 370 is only going to aid the BJP’s campaign and the question of the hour is not who will win the Haryana elections instead the discussions are revolving around how big a majority will the BJP secure in the upcoming assembly elections as Khattar has become from a rookie to a bedrock of Haryana politics in just 5 years as the party is harping on his government’s clean image to deliver a resounding victory.