March 23, 2014

HARYANA & LOK SABHA 2014


THE TRIPARTITE STRUGGLE


The agrarian state of Haryana, like the neighboring Delhi is all set to witness a three way contest for the 10 parliamentary seats in the state. The Congress has been in power here since its thumping victory in the 2005 assembly polls. An year earlier, it had swept the national polls, winning a staggering 9 out of 10 seats. Its dominance continued, as it managed to equal its tally of 2004 in the 15th Lok Sabha too. Later that year, it ended up as the single largest party in the legislature, bagging 40 seats. However, a lot has changed ever since. With the UPA government failing on every front and simmering anti-incumbency against the Hooda regime, it is speculated that the Congress will drop several seats. The BJP has already tied with Kuldeep Bishnoi's HJC. Moreover, several top INC leaders in the state have already switched their loyalties over to the saffron camp. Another contender is the AAP. After its spectacular success in the capital, Kejriwal's outfit is keen to make an impact here. Political analyst and commentator Yogendra Yadav will be leading the party's electoral campaign here. The INLD might be down after its leader and former state CM Om Prakash Chautala was sent to the Tihar jail for his role in the Recruitment scam but it may still be able to spring some surprises. Besides, with the next elections to the state assembly scheduled later this year and multiple parties in the fray, you can expect the General Elections to be closely fought one.

ISSUES

(1) The failures of UPA II: The Congress led coalition at the Centre has been a total failure, more so in its second term. The myriad scams that have come to the limelight including 2G, Commonwealth and Coalgate have led to bad press, especially at a time when the nation has risen up against corruption. High inflation rate and price rise have hurt the common man. All thanks to policy paralysis, the over all India growth story has been punctured and Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) have reduced. Though Manmohan Singh has already announced his retirement from active politics in 2014, the Congress is clearly on the back foot.

(2) Ant-incumbency against Hooda regime: Like the UPA in New Delhi, the Bhoopender Singh Hooda regime has been in power in Haryana for the last decade. However, on the flip side, there is a strong anti-incumbency wave in the state. The several land scams including the one involving Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra has become a major embarrassment for the party. The role of the state government in suppressing the honest IAS officer Ashok Khemka who played a key role in exposing the Vadra-DLF land deals and the filing of a chargesheet against him in this regards has been seen as an attempt to 'silence' him. The poor infrastructure, especially in urban areas like Gurgaon Karnal, Rohtak and Ambala is another issue which is likely to hit the ruling party hard in the upcoming polls in urban areas. Moreover, unlike the last state polls, the other parties namely the BJP and the AAP have strengthened their positions ahead of the big elections, posing a significant challenge to the incumbent regime.

(3) The Khaps and the Caste Equation: Now there are two things that play a key role in the Haryanvi society - the khap and the caste. In fact, such is the power of these village panchayats that in spite of the courts questioning their authority in arbitrating over disputes, none of the political parties have openly criticized it. Even the 'anarchist' Arvind Kejriwal was rather soft on them. Aware of the kind of influence these local bodies hold over the people, parties are trying hard to woo khap leaders. After all, in many villages, it is common for people to vote according to the directives issued by these sabhas.

Like the khaps, caste is an important factor which decides the way people vote, at least in the rural parts of the state. The Jats are the most dominant community in the politics of Haryana. With the Union government including them in the central OBC list, the INC is hopeful that the move will help it in all 10 seats in the state. The Chamars, the Banias and the Khatris have significant presence in some parts of the state. The BJP will target the Brahmins who constitute about 7 percent of the state's population. Other important communities who could decide the outcome of these polls in specific seats include the Sikhs, the Balmikis, the Rajputs, the Gujjars, the Sainis and the Meo Muslims.

CONTENDERS

(1) Congress: After being in power, both in the state and at the Centre for the last decade, the grand old party will find it extremely difficult to even get half the number of seats it won in the last two General Elections. The problem for the Congress is that many of its veterans have joined the BJP hoping to benefit from the NaMo wave. Also, CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda knows that the result will have an enormous bearing on who wins the next state assembly polls, slated later this year. Compounding his problem here is the fact that unlike in 2009, the saffron outfit is gaining momentum. Even the AAP is expect to do well in seats in the vicinity of Delhi. Meanwhile, the party has re-nominated all six of its sitting MPs who have continued with it including industrialist Navin Jindal (Kurukshetra), the CM's son Deepender Hooda (Rohtak) and Shruti Choudhary (Bhiwani-Mahenderagarh) - the grand daughter of former CM Bhansi Lal.

(2) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): After drawing a blank in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is expected to make big gains in Haryana this time around. However, one has to realize that the outfit does not have a very powerful presence here. In 1999 when it did well here, it fought in alliance with Chautla's INLD. As such, it is not surprising that the party has given tickets to as many as four Congress rebels. These include the former Union Minister Rao Inderjit Singh (Gurgaon) who was at loggerheads with the CM and had even raised questions over Robert Vadra's land deals. Farmer leader Om Prakash Dhankar who heads the party's Kishan Morcha has been rewarded for the role as the national convener of the 'Statue of Unity' which is a pet project of Narendra Modi and given a ticket from Rohtak. Other nominees from the saffron camp include Ratan Lal Kattaria (Ambala) and Krishan Pal Gurjar (Faridabad).

The BJP will fight the polls in alliance with Haryana Janhit Congress - Bhajan Lal (HJC-BL). In the Hisar by-elections held in 2011, following the death of his father and sitting MP Bhajan Lal, party chief Kuldeep Bishnoi humiliated the Congress, winning nearly 2 lakh votes more than Congress' Jai Prakash. Bishnoi declared his support for NDA's PM nominee Narendra Modi in September 2013. According to the pre-poll pact with the BJP, the regional outfit has fielded two candidates - Bishnoi from Hisar and former deputy CM Chander Mohan from Karnal. It was speculated that Venod Sharma, a former state minister who had left the Congress would join the HJC and contest from Karnal. Venod is the father of Manu Sharma who had killed Jessica Lal in 1999; on several occasions the senior Sharma has been accused of using his political clout to influence witnesses in the case. In fact, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had been vocal about her dissatisfaction over this move. As such, the HJC had no choice but to turn down the influential Brahmin leader.

(3) Indian National Lok Dal (INLD): The year 2014 will decide if the INLD does have any future in the state. The party received a big jolt in January last year as party chief and former CM Om Prakash Chautala along with his elder son Ajay were sentenced to jail for ten year for their involvement in the Recruitment Scam. The party received another shock as its offer for a tie-up was turned down by former ally, the BJP. In fact, the saffronist decided to join hands with the Chautala's bete noire - the HJC. Though it may not be as strong as it was in the late 90s, the regional outfit still enjoys support in the rural areas. The INLD's performance in 2014 Lok Sabha and the upcoming state elections will decide if it continues to be an important player in state politics. It will also be a test of Abhay Chautala's leadership

(4) Aam Admi Party (AAP): After exposing the Vadra-DLF land scam, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal will be hoping to emulate the success that he enjoyed in the Delhi state polls in neighboring Haryana too. With corruption being a major electoral issue, the party's chances look bright. One of its top leaders Yogendra Yadav is set to contest from Gurgaon. Anti-graft crusader and upright IAS officer Ashok Khemka is AAP's mascot in the state.

PAST PERFORMANCE

The following chart shows the results of the last five Lok Sabha elections in the state. In 1996, the BJP emerged as the largest party winning 4 whereas the Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) and the Congress finished with 3 and 2. Two years later, it was Chautala's Haryana Lok Dal (Rashtriya) which walked away with 4 even as the INC increased its tally by one. The HLD(R) was later renamed as INLD. In 1999, the NDA swept the state with both allies winning five seats each. In the last two General Elections, the Congress finished with an impressive tally of nine.

Political Party
2009
2004
1999
1998
1996
1
Congress (INC)
9
9
-
3
2
2
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
-
1
5
1
4
3
Indian National Lok Dal (INLD)
-
-
5
4
-
4
Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC)
1
-
-
-
-
5
Others (HVP/BSP/Ind)
-
-
-
2
4


MY PREDICTIONS

I expect the NDA to win about five seats from Haryana in the upcoming polls. The Congress will drop many seats; however, it will not be wiped out totally. While AAP may win one seat, the INLD will draw a blank.

Political Party
Expected Seats
1
NDA (BJP + HJC)
5-7
2
Congress (INC)
3-4
3
Aam Admi Party (AAP)
0-1


WATCH OUT

(1) Can the INLD pack a punch: The INLD is fighting a battle for its existence and you can expect the party cadre to put in extra effort this time. Even in the Hisar by-elections of 2011, the party's candidate Ajay Chautala who heads the party now, came in the second position. Of course, this was before senior Chautala was sent to jail. In a desperate attempt, the outfit has fielded 26 year old Dushyant, the son of jailed leader Ajay Chautala. The young Turk will be the fourth generation of the Chautala family to join politics.

(2) Sharmaji's next move: After breaking his decades long association with the Congress, Venod Sharma had heaped praises on Narendra Modi at a rally in Kurukshetra. However, after being snubbed first by the BJP and then denied a ticket by the HJP under pressure from Sushma Swaraj, it will be interesting to see what he does next. Unlike Amar Singh who was 'accommodated' in the RLD with the blessing of the Congress high command, Sharma who is the father of Jessica Lal's murder Manu Sharma had no such luck. He is likely to contest as a candidate of the Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP) - an outfit fielded by an aide of Gopal Kanda - the prime accused in the murder of Geetika Sharma.

For more posts in this series:
(1) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Rajasthan & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Goa & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Chhattisgarh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Bihar & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Jharkahnd & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Sikkim & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Uttarakhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(22) Himachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(23) Gujarat & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(24) Punjab & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(25) Bengal & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(26) Odisha & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(27) Tamil Nadu & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(28) Andhra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(29) Uttar Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)