September 14, 2014

AKHADA - Part II

ISSUES AHEAD OF THE 2014 HARYANA STATE POLLS


The INC's decimation in the recently concluded parliamentary elections, especially in Haryana has shaken the political scenario in the state. After being in power here for a decade, incumbent CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda was left red-faced as the INC managed to win just one seat; his son Deepak was the lone party candidate to make the cut. Meanwhile, the saffron outfit is on a surge. After painting the state in orange, the BJP 's poll prospects have been further boosted after several prominent leaders from the INC and the INLD have joined it. So confident is the party of its chances that it has refused to 'honor' its electoral accord with the HJC. Crying foul, Bishnoi now has tied up with Venod Sharma's JCP and vowed to teach the BJP a lesson. With the polls to the state assembly being scheduled on October 15, let us have a look at the issues that are likely to play in the minds of the masses as they vote to decide who form the next regime in Haryana.

In a party that is not known to give a free hand to its state leaders, Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda is an exception. In spite of the fact that even a Gandhi loyalist like Kumari Selja has been accusing the incumbent CM of 'neglecting' her constituency of Ambala for long, the son of former freedom fighter Ranbir Hooda has largely had a free hand in the state. After all, he was the one who led the Congress to a famous victory in 2004 polls and then managed to stay on to power for a second consecutive term by 'poaching' MLAs from Bishnoi's HJC and joining hands with some independent. Moreover, the state contributed nine MPs to both innings of the UPA government. Sadly though, all that seems to have changed, quite drastically in the last six months. The anti-incumbency sentiment is at a all time high. After the drubbing the Lok Sabha polls, several leaders have come out and openly hit out at the CM with some even crossing over to the BJP. In a recent rally at Kaithal that he attended along with PM Narendra Modi, he was booed by what he later termed as a crowd comprising of BJP supporters. While there may be some element of truth in the CM's remarks, there is little doubt that his popularity is at its lowest.

Anna Hazare's crusader against corruption way back in August 2011 shook the conscience of the nation and ever since, it has become one of the biggest issues in all polls in the country. In Haryana, a slew of corruption allegations against the ruling regime has put the Congress on the back foot. Perhaps, the most famous, rather 'infamous' is the one involving Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra. He has been accused of purchasing land in Haryana at throw-away prices causing severe embarrassment for the INC and its top family. On the other hand, the main Opposition in the state, Chautala's Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) too is in the dock after its top two leaders - former CM and party supremo Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Singh were sent behind the bars after being convicted in the Teacher's Recruitment Scam in January 2013. With the BJP making this as their main poll plank like it did in the General Polls earlier this year, the two main political parties in Haryana have a lot to answer.

Ahead of the state elections, the ruling Congress is battling dissidents within its ranks. Former Rajya Sabha MP Venod Sharma who was known to be close to Hooda has left the party to form the JCP. Kumari Selja has become more vocal in her differences with the CM whereas Jat strongman Birendra Singh has joined the saffron camp. Minister in state cabinet Ajay Yadav had threatened to resign from the party if it projected Hooda as its CM candidate. The party has constituted a new committee and has been put the five time MLA from Rewari in charge of its campaign. Similarly, the arrest of its top two has left a power vacuum in the INLD. It is up to the remaining Chautalas - Abhay Chautala and his nephew Dushyant to oversee the outfit's campaign. Meanwhile, the one cause of concern for the BJP is that it does not have a strong leadership in the state. Most of its big leaders are political turncoats from other parties and it remains to be seen if they can work as a cohesive unit to win the elections. Even if the saffron outfit does win a majority on its own, selecting the CM will be an arduous task. HJC chief Kuldeep Bishnoi does not have any such problems, that is if it can get the numbers.

If the state assembly polls throws up a hung assembly, like in 2009, then the role of the regional parties will be interesting to see. After severing ties with the BJP, Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) leader Kuldeep Bishnoi has forged an alliance with Jan Chetna Party (JCP) chief Venod Sharma to fight the polls together. Sharma is the father of Manu Sharma, the main accused in the Jessica Lal murder. He will be hoping that like in the last assembly, he emerges as the 'Kingmaker'. However, for that he has to learn from his mistakes and make sure that he keeps his flock together. Former state home minister Gopal Kanda whose name figured in the suicide of air hostess Geetika Sharma has also floated his own outfit - the Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP). He has announced a host of populist measures if voted to power. Former Congress MLA Arvind Sharma has been projected by the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) as its CM candidate. The Aam Admi Party (AAP) has decided not to contest the state polls but has promised to expose corrupt candidates belonging to all parties.

Finally, the caste equations play a key role in state politics and this time it is not going to be any different. Jats are the largest community here and constitute 27 percent of the total population. The leadership of the two big parties here including incumbent CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda of the INC and the Chautalas of the INLD belong to this caste. The inclusion of the Jats in the central OBC quota by the UPA II is likely to help the Congress. The BJP is pinning its hopes on its Jat leader Chaudhary Birender Singh. Kuldeep Bishnoi is eyeing the non-Jat votes, including the 19 percent Dalit votes. The ruling party's decision to form the Haryana State Gurudwara Prabandak Committee (HSGPC) is clearly seen as a move to woo the 6 percent Sikh votes.


For more posts on the Haryana 2014 State Elections, click here (Link)