BJP-HJC candidate Kuldeep Bishnoi pips INLD at the post
Kuldeep Bishnoi, the BJP-Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) candidate, defeated Ajay Singh Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) by a narrow margin of 6,323 votes to win the Hisar Parliamentary by-election in a tough triangular contest.
The ruling Congress in Haryana suffered an ignominious defeat, as its nominee Jai Parkash emerged a poor third and even lost his security deposit along with 37 other candidates, mostly Independents.
According to the Election Office, Mr. Bishnoi secured 38.84 per cent, Mr. Chautala, 38.15 per cent, and Mr. Jai Parkash, 16.34 per cent, of the valid votes polled. As per the final figures, Mr. Bishnoi polled 3,55,941 votes, Mr. Chautala 3,49,618 and Mr. Jai Parkash 1,49,784 votes.
An elated Bishnoi attributed his victory to the sympathy wave in favour of his late father and former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, whose death last June, necessitated the by-poll. He also gave credit to the new alliance with the BJP which benefited him in the urban areas.
According to Haryana watchers, Mr. Bishnoi seems to have emerged as a rallying point for consolidation of non-Jat votes. Bhajan Lal, who served as Chief Minister thrice, had won the Hisar seat in the 2009 general elections on the Haryana Janhit Congress ticket, which he had founded after leaving the Congress, with a margin of nearly 7,000 votes.
Mr. Bishnoi also asserted that the diktat by members of the Anna Hazare team to vote against the Congress came late and had no impact since the people had already made up their minds. However, a debate would continue on the efficacy of the campaign that these polls should be a referendum against the Congress over the corruption issue.
Political observers said the verdict could have been different if Mr. Jai Parkash, a former Union Minister and three-time MP from Hisar, had been in the race in real terms. He stood third in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections too and lost the Adampur Assembly poll in 2009 to Mr. Bishnoi.
Senior Congress leaders here suggested a review of the factors leading to the dismal performance by the Congress especially after Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, pulled out all stops to lead the campaign and seek votes for Mr. Jai Prakash on the plank of development of his government.
Party insiders said that besides infighting within the ruling party, the “unpopularity” of Mr. Prakash was a primary factor for the defeat amid reports that many senior leaders from the State had come out to campaign only after direction from the party's central leadership.
K.V. Prasad reports from Delhi
The result should also serve as a wake-up call for the Congress considering that Mr. Bishnoi, has been able to garner the bulk of non-Jat vote, something his father excelled in, to hold on to the position of power in Haryana for a long time.
The Congress tactics of projecting a Jat leader in Mr. Hooda had worked well to unseat the Om Prakash Chautala government. But over the last few years, the INLD has shown that its traditional support from the Jats has increased.
In 2009, Sampat Singh of INLD, secured 2.41 lakh votes with a 29.15 per cent vote share while Mr. Chautala got 3.49 lakh votes with a vote share of 38.15 per cent. Incidentally, Mr. Sampat Singh is now a Congress MLA from Hisar.
In 2009, Mr. Jai Prakash got 2.04 lakh votes with a vote share of 26.6 per cent as against the then winner Bhajan Lal who got 2.48 lakh votes with nearly 30 per cent. The BSP had then got slightly under 11 per cent vote share and this time in the absence of a candidate, the votes would have shifted to Mr. Bishnoi, a senior State leader said, explaining the increase in the margin for the HJC-BJP combine along with the fact that over 9 lakh votes were polled this time compared to 8.28 lakh in 2009.
For the past few months, some non-Jat leaders have been expressing resentment over the manner in which the affairs of the State were being run and now feel that the party needs to do some serious introspection since Mr. Bishnoi has been successful in consolidating the non-Jat vote that accounts for over 65 per cent while INLD holds on to its base.