BJP Chances in Haryana – An Appraisal

BJP Chances in Haryana – an Appraisal (First Draft)

A ahort history of BjP in Haryana:

The BJP, until 911, was contesting mostly in alliance with the other Janata Party constituents, particularly the Lok Dal. Both in 1982, and 1987, the BJP fought elections alongside the Lok Dal of Chaudhary Devi Lal. For the first time, in 1991, the BJP was forced to fight elections on its own in Haryana, and secured only around 9.5% of the vote and 2 of the 90 seats in the Assembly. Its performance in the Lok Sabha was a bit better, and it secured 10.17%. The BJP, afterwards, however, abandoned its independence, gave up all hopes of growing further on its own, and allied in 96 and 98 with Bansi Lal’s Haryana Vikas Party (HVP), dumped HVP in 99, and joined O P Chauthala’s INLD. Only in 2004, when the alliance with Chauthala’s INLD fell apart, did the BJP go back to fighting the election on its own. Unsurprisingly, in the 2004 election, the BJP was wiped out except for one single seat – Kishan Singh Sangwan in Sonepat. Its performance, in vote share terms, was a bit better, and it won 17.21% of the popular vote. However, the party fall back to its inertia, kept going in alliance with INLD and never grew on its own. Only in 2009, when both the BJP and the INLD were wiped out by the pro-Congress wave in Haryana (even its only MP, Kishan Singh Sangwan, was routed in Sonepat) did the party finally slowly shake off the two decade old lethargy. It contested the election on its own in 2009 Assembly elections, but went back to its usual performance of 9.05% of the votes. This seems to be a constant for the BJP – a vote share of about 10% in the Assembly elections, and a higher share of around 15% or so in the Lok Sabha elections, irrespective of any other factors.

Current Situation:

Generally, in the last ten years, the elections in Haryana have been direct fights between the Congress and the INLD, with the other parties (principally, the BJP, the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) and the BSP) playing smaller, often only spoiler roles. Generally, Haryana politics, since the 80s, centred around the three Lals – Bhajan Lal, Bansi Lal, and Devi Lal. However, all three have passed out of the world, although their families continue to have a strong impact on the politics. The Hooda led Congress has changed considerably from the Bhajan Lal led Congress, and has been ruling the state for the last ten years. However, the whole scenario has changed in the current elections. The main changes will be enumerated below

1) The Hooda led Congress has faced a series of rebellions, resulting in a number of defections at the mid level, in particular, to the BJP, HJC and the AAP. Prominent defectors include Venod Sharma, MLA from Ambala city (he has quit the Congress, and is said to be keen on joining the HJC, but the plans have been stalled due to the strong opposition of Sushma Swaraj, with whom the HJC has an alliance), Dharamveer Singh, MLA from Sohna who has joined BJP, and Rao Inderjit Singh, MP from Gurgaon who has joined BJP. Even other senior leaders from the Congress like Selja (MP from Ambala) and Sampat Singh (MLA from Nalwa) are said to be angry with Hooda and are sulking. In addition to these problems, the Hooda government has been accused of a number of land scams, in conjunction with Robert Vadra, son-in-law of the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi.

2) The arrival of the AAP has introduced an unknown variable to the Haryana politics. The AAP, after a stunning performance in neighbouring Delhi, has entered Haryana politics with great enthusiasm. Two of the senior most AAP leaders, Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav, belong to Haryana and they are focussing on the state with great zeal. The AAP had initially (in December-January) entered the scene with great hopes of replicating its Delhi performance in Haryana, but some of the aura around the party seems to be dimming with a spate of unsavoury incidents hounding the party. Nevertheless, it is expected to put in a good performance according to several opinion polls (see below).

3) The INLD has also weakened considerably from its usual strength, although the party seems to be finding some hope in Dushyant Chauthala, a great grandson of the legendary Chaudhary Devi Lal. The conviction of Om Prakash Chauthala and his son Ajay Chauthala in a teacher recruitment scam, and their sentencing to ten years rigorous imprisonment has, nevertheless, cast a shadow on the party’s hopes.

Traditional Voting Patterns:

Haryana politics centres around a three major factors, viz, farmers issues, Jats vs others, and finally, corruption. Farmers form a large part of Haryana’s electorate and various sops like free water, and power, to woo the farmers are as old as the state itself. Haryana centres around Jat politics. About a quarter of the state’s populace is Jat, and consequently, Jat politics dominate the state. Further, during the earlier Congress times, it became a game of Jats vs the others, with the Congress representing the hopes of the others. This has changed a lot with the advent of the present Congress CM, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, a Jat himself, who has brought the Congress into the game of wooing the Jats, and biting into their votes. Finally, corruption is a perpetual factor in Haryana politics. With the sole honourable exception of Bansi Lal2, every other CM of Haryana (and most ministers) has been accused of corruption. Of course, nepotism is so common as to be a matter of pride rather than of shame. All CMs have introduced their own dynasties. With that said, we shall examine the traditional voting patterns for the parties, currently in existence.

Congress:

The Congress, for a long time, represented the hopes of the `others’ in the Jats vs others issues. Of course, even the Congress had its share of Jat leaders from the state, but the Jats were among the earliest rebels against the Congress (mainly via leaders who rebelled from the Congress), and have been the mainstay of the opposition parties (both the Haryana Vikas Party and the Indian National Lok Dal). However, the Congress depended, to a large extent on the OBCs and Dalits for its votes. It had a fraction of the votes of the upper castes, the educated middle class that had benefited from Congress rule, and finally, by throwing sops at farmers, got a chunk of the farmer vote as well. However, as mentioned earlier, under CM Hooda, a good chunk of the Jats have returned to the party particularly in the Sonepat-Rohtak region. The absorption of the Bansi Lal clan inside the Congress has further cemented the party’s reconciliation with the Jats. In short, the Congress takes its votes from most segments of the state’s population. This is further supplemented by the presence of a strong Congress leadership across the state and cadre in the entire state that is capable of turning around the fortunes of the party in any election on its own, even against the odds.

Indian National Lok Dal (INLD):

This party is led by the Devi Lal-Chauthala clan and functions, more or less, as a family run enterprise. Having ruled the state several times, the clan traditionally gets its votes from two segments where it is very strong, the Jats and the farmers. It must be emphasised that these two are not mutually exclusive sets, but the mainstay of the INLD is the rural vote. The INLD also draws strength from the rural labourers, who are often persuaded by the richer farmers, to vote for the party. The party has an excellent cadre, and while its leadership is not as diverse as the Congress, or the cadre as strong, the INLD cadre strength is nevertheless extremely impressive. The party also has good local leadership, although some of it is beginning to fray around the edges.

Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC):

This party is also a family run enterprise, this time run by the family of Bhajan Lal. Bhajan Lal was the first Backward Caste leader to make it big in Haryana, and he represented the hopes of the others in the `Jats vs the others’ politics of Haryana. The mainstay of the HJC are the OBCs and the middle class, particularly in the centre and west of the state, which were Bhajan Lal’s stomping grounds. The party has a decent cadre, and local leadership in parts of the state.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP):

The BJP has a small, but secure traditional vote share in the state. The BJP’s draws its support mainly from the urban middle class, the educated class, and the upper castes in the rural belt in the state. The BJP leadership, until recently, was unimpressive with its tallest leader from the state, Sushma Swaraj choosing to desert the state for Delhi politics. The cadre strength of the party was mediocre at best, and was particularly weak in many rural areas. The party can, when the issues converge, depend on the RSS to bolster its cadre strength, and give the party a leg up in party work. Further, the party has grown absorbing several dissident Congressmen and independents, providing it with a more reasonable local leadership.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP):

The BSP traditionally drew its strength from the Dalits, the rural poor and other marginalised segments of the society. They are a cadre based party and had good local leaders at one time, but with excessive focus on Uttar Pradesh by the party head, Mayawati, the BSP may be looking a little jaded in Haryana.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP):

This is the wild card. They had generated a lot of enthusiasm in December-January with their stunning performance in the Delhi polls, and had grown greatly, drawing recruits from all segments of the society, particularly urban, in Haryana. However, much of that initial enthusiasm has evaporated with unsavoury incident haunting the party. Their local leadership remains uncertain.

Opinion polls:

We shall examine what the various opinion polls say about the state. A word on my methodology. I do not believe in seat forecasts, which are based on translating vote shares into seats. The algorithm cannot take into account the various factors in the different constituencies, or the variations. 3% of the vote may translate into a seat, while 15% may give no seat. Consequently, I shall be examining only the vote shares (which surveys generally tend to get correctly), and then we shall try to factor what is happening across the various constituencies. All vote shares are shown in percentages.

LokNiti-IBN (Vote shares shown on 23/01/2014 – surveys were conducted in early January) [1]

2009     2014

Cong   42        34

INLD   16        15

HJC    10         _

BJP    12        20

BSP   16         4

AAP    0         17

The second survey, conducted by Cvoter in early January and published by India Today [2] on 17/01/2014 gives the following vote shares.

2009      2014

Cong.             42        18

INLD              16         9

HJC+BJP       22        35

BSP               16         5

AAP               0          21

Nielsen has not released detailed statewise surveys to the extent I need, so I am ignoring it. IBTL has not released vote shares for Haryana at all, so I am ignoring that as well.

Now, the two surveys show considerable disparity, which I have no way to resolve directly. Consequently, I will do two things.

1) CSDS did not release the vote share of the HJC, they merely released the vote share of the HJC in the `Others category’ which is expected go garner a share of 10%. In the `Others’ category in General Elections 2009, the share was 4% excluding the HJC. I shall assume that the `Others’ will retain that 4% in 2014 as well, so I am giving the HJC a share of 6%, which is quite feasible. With the death of Bhajan Lal, the party may have lost about 3-4% of the vote.

2) To resolve the disparity between the two opinion polls, I shall take the arithmetic mean of the two opinion polls as a basis for judging the opinions in the state. Both surveys agree on three points, viz, the Congress is losing a considerable part of its vote share, the HJC+BJP is gaining vote share, the BSP is coming down to around 5% of the vote, which is what it had in 2004, and finally, the AAP has made a considerable impact getting 17-21% of the vote share in Haryana. The AAP has possibly lost some vote after the Delhi fiasco and the various antics of its leaders, but I prefer to keep to the quantifiable knowledge. With that basis, let us look at what the mean between the two opinion polls says for 2014

Cong-26%

BJP+HJC-30.5%

BSP-4.5%

INLD-12%

AAP-19%

Given these vote shares, let us try to translate what they mean for the various constituencies

Constituencies:

Ambala (SC):

Candidates: Cong- none yet, BJP – former MP and HPSC chairman, Rattan Lal Kataria, INLD – Party General Secretary’s Ashok Sherwal’s wife, Kusum Bala, AAP-Surinder Pal Singh

This is a constituency reserved for scheduled castes. Generally, this seat has featured a triangular fight between the Congress, BSP and the BJP, since the days of the legendary Suraj Bhan of the BJP. This time, if the BSP votebank has shifted en masse to the AAP, it could feature a triangular fight between the Congress, the BJP and the AAP. However, AAP candidate Surinder Pal Singh is facing serious dissidence from the party workers, who are protesting against him as he is an outsider. The amount of confidence had seems to inspire may well make it a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP. The Congress has run into some candidate selection problems. Kumari Selja is reportedly unwilling to contest from Ambala, as she has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha to placate Hooda. The Congress is considering Ashok Tanwar, but he is reportedly unwilling too, and Ambala Congress wants a local to be fielded in Ambala. Furthermore, the Congress has suffered a hard blow in the recent times with the exit of the party MLA from Ambala city, Venod Sharma (a better introduction to him might be as the father of Manu Sharma, of the infamous Jessica Lal case). Nevertheless, Mr. Sharma who had bankrolled the victory of several Congress candidates has deserted the party, and is now singing paeans to the BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi. However, his attempts to join HJC seem to have suffered a hitch, with the senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj throwing a roadblock against it by protesting vociferously with the HJC leadership. To placate the BJP, the HJC is reportedly keeping Mr. Sharma at a distance. Mr. Sharma’s next moves might well decide the fate of the constituency. If Mr. Sharma returns to the Congress, or joins the INLD, the BJP may end up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The BJP candidate Rattan Lal Kataria has suffered two defeats at the hands of the Congress heavyweight Kumari Selja, and enjoys a mixed image at best. Nevertheless, he seems to be the party’s best candidate at the moment. A hard fight seems in the offing between the Congress and the BJP, the balance is on a knife edge, and the tilt could go either way.

Kurukshetra:

Candidates: Cong – Congress heavyweight Naveen Jindal, BJP – former independent MLA, Rajkumar Saini, INLD – former Minister in Chauthala cabinet, Balbeer Saini, AAP – Balwinder Kaur.

This is a seat where the BJP is usually weak, and their attempts to overcome their weakness with an imported independent, Rajkumar Saini, may not bear much fruit, as part of the BJP’s own workers have risen in revolt against his candidature. The INLD has dumped the old redoubtable Kailasho Devi and brought in Balbeer Saini. This seat is going to witness a fight between the INLD and the Congress. It is uncertain that Rajkumar Saini can fight off the two heavyweights to win the seat. This is also a seat where the BJP’s ally, the HJC cannot give it much support. Likely a fight between the Congress and the INLD, maybe a triangular fight if the Modi wave in the constituency is particularly intense.

Sirsa

Hisar

Karnal

Sonepat

Candidates: Cong – brother of sitting MP Jitender Malik, Jagbir Malik, BJP – defecting former Minister, Ramesh Kaushik, INLD – party secretary, Padam Dahiya, AAP – Jaisingh Thekedar.

This is the beginning of Hooda’s home turf. The BJP heavyweight, Kishan Singh Sangwan, at one time, held great sway in the region, but his influence has diminished after his death. The Jat vote will be divided between the Congress and the INLD. The BJP has fielded a Brahmin, the peripatetic Ramesh Kaushik (the man has been in nearly every ministry in the last two decades), who will likely take the upper caste and probably a large part of the OBC vote as well (given the OBC PM candidate, and the alliance with HJC, which does have a considerable presence in the region). Theoretically, the constituency should feature a triangular fight, but BJP suffers from two problems. First, Pradeep Sangwan (the only Jat leader in the region with any influence), son of Kishan Singh Sangwan, has risen in revolt and promised to contest as an independent. If this happens, the BJP will be likely out of the race even before it has begun. But if the BJP is able to staunch the revolt, and put up a united face, the BJP could put up, at the very least, a stiff contest. But if it is unable to do so, then the contest, such as it is, will be between the Congress and the INLD. But in all probability, if the contest is between the Congress and the iNLD, the Congress will hold the advantage. Only a united BJP-HJC effort can yield any fruit, even if it is an uphill struggle right from the beginning. Whether the BJP can put its own house in order remains to be seen.

Rohtak

Candidates: Cong – sitting MP and CM’s son, Deepinder Singh Hooda, BJP – Om Prakash Dhankar, the Kisan Morcha president, and supposed confidant of the PM candidate, Narendra Modi, INLD – Shamsher Singh, AAP – Naveen Jaihind

The Congress sitting MP Deepinder Singh Hooda, thanks to the good work done by his father in the area, seems nearly unbeatable. This is Jat heartland and no non-Jat has a chance, which is probably why all candidates are Jats. Also, Om Prakash Dhankar’s candidature does not seem to have been very well received by the party workers in the region. It is uncertain that anyone has the heft to challenge Deepinder Singh Hooda in his home turf.

Bhiwani-Mahendragarh

Candidates: Cong – Sitting MP, and granddaughter of Chaudhary Bansi Lal, Shruti Chaudhary, BJP – defecting Congress MLA from Sohna, Dharamveer Singh, INLD – sitting Nangal Chaudhary MLA, Rao Bahadur Singh, AAP – Lalit Agarwal.

This seat is a real toss up, if there was one on earth. A straight fight between the BJP and the Congress. The sitting MP, Shruti Chaudhary and her mother, Kiran Chaudhary are extremely powerful voices in the region. With Kiran and Shruti Chaudhary inheriting the legacy of Chaudhary Bansi Lal, they are extremely respected in the region. However, they are fighting a double incumbency, both at the state and the centre, and their opponent is one person who could upset their apple cart, Dharamveer Singh. Dharamveer Singh has the reputation of having defeated Chaudhary Bansi Lal back in 1987 and becoming the youngest MLA, and he is blessed with the real Jat fighting spirit, and capable of doing whatever it takes to win. With the Jat votes likely to go mostly to Shruti Chaudhary (with some accruing to Dharamveer Singh, who is also a Jat), the accent will be on the OBC votes and UC votes which will be the deciders in the constituency. And here, the BJP has reasons for both cheer and worry. The non-Yadav OBC votes will likely go to Dharamveer Singh, who will be helped in the bargain by his alliance with the HJC (which will help toss the Bishnoi votes into his kitty), along with the PM candidate’s caste. The Yadav vote (the other important factor here along with the Jat vote) is something that should give him pause for two reasons. First, the other BJP contender for Bhiwani ticket, Sudha Yadav, a Kargil hero’s wife, is reportedly upset with Dharamveer’s candidacy. Secondly, the presence of Rao Bahadur Singh, a Yadav MLA from Nangal Chaudhary is another worrying factor. If the Yadav vote were to be shared out, it might put Dharamveer at a disadvantage. Complicating the matter for Dharamveer is the presence of a Bania candidate from the AAP, which might cut into the upper caste vote bank of the BJP. However, despite all these problems, Dharamveer Singh is not badly off. The amount of anti-incumbency makes Shruti Chaudhary’s position anything but secure. All in all, this is a real toss up seat, and the fight is between the Congress and the BJP.

Gurgaon

Candidates: Cong – not announced yet, BJP – sitting MP, defecting Congressman, and scion of the local dynasty, Rao Inderjit Singh, INLD – former MLA, Zakeer Hussain, AAP – former psephologist, and CM candidate of AAP, Yogendra Yadav.

This should see a triangular fight between the Congress, the BJP and the AAP. The seat has a large Meo Muslim population (around 35%) which is being wooed by all three, Congress, INLD and AAP. Even Rao Inderjit Singh has a following among Mewati Muslims, who might get some of their votes. Zakeer Hussain, a former MLA, can also be expected to bite into the Congress’ Muslim vote bank. But otherwise, the dominant castes in the rural areas are the Yadavs and OBCs like Gujjars. Yogendra Yadav has been trying to woo his fellow castemen, but it is hard since Rao Inderjit Singh has a loyal Yadav following. The urban regions of Gurgaon are in a Modi wave, and the educated classes can be expected to back Rao Inderjit Singh to the hilt. The urban poor votes will be divided three way – between the AAP, BJP, and the Congress. The one source of worry for Rao Inderjit Singh, apart from the large Muslim population, should be the anti-incumbency he is facing. Rao Inderjit, by sheer longevity of his ruling the constituency, has accumulated a bit of anti-incumbency. But with the Modi wave, the caste factor, and divided opposition, Rao Inderjit Singh should be home and dry with a bit of luck.

Faridabad

Candidates: Cong – two time sitting MP, Avtar Singh Bhadana, BJP – sitting Tigaon MLA Krishnapal Gujjar, INLD – former MP, R K Anand, AAP – Purushottam Dagar.

This will be an interesting quadrangular fight. All four candidates have chances. The two time sitting MP, Avtar Singh Bhadana is facing a bunch of problems, not least his poor relations with the CM, Hooda. Anti-incumbency is heavy and he faces an urban populace that is exasperated with the Congress. If the OBC votes get split between the BJP and the Congress, (with more of the OBC vote likely going to the BJP), Mr. Bhadana faces a serious problem, since his urban poor votebank may also be poached by the AAP. The educated class is likely to go to the BJP (some possibly even for the AAP). The final decision will be based on how the farmers and the Punjabis (who form a very significant proportion of the electorate) vote.

Overall, the BJP strategy seems to be to unite the OBC and upper caste votebank behind their candidates. With the Jat vote likely to be divided between the Congress and the INLD, the BJP has only a small slice of Jats to woo. Further, the entry of Gen. V K Singh into the BJP could have a strong effect on the large number of army men in Haryana, and Gen. Singh, also a Haryanvi, is well respected. If the BJP carries through its strategy, it will be a case of the BJP doing to the Congress what the Congress did to Chauthala and Bansi Lal through Bhajan Lal. it would be the consummation of the irony if the BJP were to make an instrument of Bhajan Lal’s son to implement Bhajan Lal’s strategy against the Congress to the latter’s detriment.

Another point to be remembered is that the BJP has a less star studded team in Haryana.  They have to make do with less grand candidates.  Congress candidates are all heavyweights, with several victories and grand lineages behind them.  The BJP is growing, so the reputation of its candidates will seem less formidable.

References:

[1] – IBN Lokniti vote share projections shown on 23/01/2014 http://ibnlive.in.com/news/election-tracker-congress-ahead-in-haryana-bjpsad-leads-in-punjab/447382-81.html

[2] – C Voter Survey published by India Today Group on 17/01/2014 http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/aam-aadmi-party-aap-vs-bjp-haryana-lok-sabha-polls-c-voter-survey/1/338228.html

1By referring to the history of the BJP, I am referring to the period after the BJP was created from the Jan Sangh and the Swatantra Party, from the Ashes of the Janata Party experiment.

2At least, this author is unaware of any corruption scandals attainting the former CM. If I am wrong, and have missed some of his scandals, please feel free to correct me.

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