The BJP and the Indian National Lok Dal may be fighting each other in Haryana, but they, along with the Akali Dal of Punjab, have something going against the common enemy: Congress
Though the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) could not seal a formal alliance in the run-up to elections, a perception gaining ground is that they, along with the ruling Akali Dal in Punjab, are working towards a common grand scheme to reduce the Congress strength in Haryana.
A formal alliance became difficult mainly because INLD leader Om Prakash Chautala and his elder son, Ajay Chautala, are in jail on being convicted of corruption.
The BJP has an alliance with the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), led by Kuldeep Bishnoi, son of former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal. The national party is contesting eight seats, while the regional one two.
Several leaders, chief among them Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal, tried to help re-forge the alliance between the BJP and the INLD, which broke in 2007, but when it did not happen, Mr. Chautala declared that either way, his party would support Narendra Modi to become prime minister.
He has, however, fielded candidates in all 10 Lok sabha constituencies in the State, among them his grandson Dushyant Chautala against Mr. Bishnoi in Hissar. But when Mr. Dushyant Chautala filed his nomination papers a few days ago, the junior Badal was in attendance.
The Akali Dal has announced a campaign schedule in Sikh-dominated areas such as Kurukshetra, Sirsa, Ambala and Karnal in Haryana. The BJP State unit has publicly expressed disapproval of the plan, even urging its central leadership to intervene and stop Mr. Badal.
However, BJP’s national spokesperson Abhimanyu Singh told The Hindu, “The BJP has an alliance with the Akali Dal in Punjab and Delhi. Barring these two States, elsewhere, the Akali Dal has every right to enter into an alliance with any other party.”
This has produced a spectacle where three components of the old National Democratic Alliance are fighting the common enemy — Congress.
Haryana’s astute voters are reading between the lines. “Jats of Haryana are either with Narendra Modi or Mr. Chautala this time. Whoever we vote for, it means the same, because the INLD will join Mr. Modi’s alliance after the elections. That way we get Modi as PM and Chautala out of jail,” Nafe Singh, a Jat farmer in Batta village of Kaithal, says.
Another perception is that if the HJC does not do well, it will likely wither away. Then, it is the INLD which will tie up with the BJP for the Assembly elections due later this year.
Jats comprise around 25 per cent of the population and from the days of the former Deputy Prime Minister, Devi Lal, the INLD has always been seen as a party of the community.
At a rally at Gohana last week, Mr. Modi accused the INLD of piggybacking on his name to secure votes and sought votes for the candidates of the BJP-HJC alliance. “Do not see the ‘lotus’ through the lens of the ‘chashma’ [the INLD poll symbol],” he said.
The INLD reacted with fury, but within the BJP, some leaders privately admit that “some sort of a tacit understanding is likely on for those seats where the BJP has weak candidates, so that the Jat votes do not go elsewhere. “The four-odd former Congressmen fielded by the BJP in Haryana are being seen as part of this strategy, because as a senior leader requesting anonymity pointed out, ‘We know that these people will not attract voters because of their past history with the Congress and its corrupt activities.’”
The BJP is realising that the Modi wave is dissipating because of caste factors. In the past, the party had relied on the INLD to bring in the rural Jat voters and made up the numbers through its largely urban presence. This time around, it is hoping that the Modi element will swing the Jat votes towards it.