While the Congress battles anti-incumbency in Haryana, the front led by it in Kerala is slightly better placed
In a State where electoral politics, in recent years, has alternated between the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal-BJP alliance, this time the scene is muddled with a different set of alliances.
For the first time, the BJP is contesting as a senior partner with the relatively new Haryana Janhit Congress as its regional face. The INLD failing to stitch an alliance with the BJP is going it alone and the buoyant Aam Aadmi Party, post its Delhi debut, has emerged as the fourth strand in the State’s caste ridden politics.
The Congress goes to the polls on April 10 facing double anti-incumbency. The Bhupinder Singh Hooda government will end a 10-year rule in October; nearly coinciding with the United Progressive Alliance’s run at the Centre. A desire for change is the all-pervasive sentiment. The present elections are being seen as a “semi final for the Assembly elections.”
This explains the reluctance of some of its sitting MPs to contest even though the Congress won nine out of the 10 constituencies in 2009.
Its MP from Ambala and Union Minister Kumari Selja made an adroit move to the Rajya Sabha just days before elections were announced. Rao Inderjeet Singh, the stalwart from Gurgaon, left the party and is now the BJP’s candidate. From Sonepat, MP Jagbir Malik refused to contest and the party was forced to nominate someone else.
The BJP, that is contesting eight out of the 10 seats, leaving only two for its partner the HJC, was hoping to ride the ‘Modi wave’ to emerge out of the shadow of its regional partners, past and present, to have a major say in any future State government.Misstep
It faltered however, in giving tickets to four Congress turncoats. The party has also miscalculated in not giving sufficient tickets to Jat candidates, at a time when Jats are tilting, perhaps for the first time, towards the BJP.
In the past, the party has represented urban non-Jats of the State and depended on the INLD to bring in the rural Jat votes. But by allying with the HJC, that shares the same non-Jat base as its own, the caste calculation has gone somewhat awry.
However, even though the BJP chose not to ally with the INLD, the latter has still declared that it will support Narendra Modi’s bid for prime ministership. The INLD is contesting alone on all 10 seats and hopes to cash in on the anti-incumbency wave against the Congress to bounce back. The BJP-INLD-HJC conundrum, however, became muddled when NDA constituent, the Akali Dal from Punjab, began campaigning for the Chautalas in Haryana.
It has triggered speculation that the BJP could ditch the HJC (depending on how well the latter does in the polls) and join hands with the INLD post polls.
The HJC’s Kuldeep Bishnoi, contesting from Hisar, is the alliance’s chief ministerial candidate, but faultlines have appeared in the partnership of late.
Since the party does not bring crucial Jat votes into the NDA kitty unlike what the INLD, it is widely perceived as dispensable in the Assembly. The Jat vote bank, about 25 per cent of the population, is disillusioned with the Hooda government, and the visible alternative is the INLD.
All this raises the stakes for the regional players this time, as the outcome will have a bearing on their fortunes in the Assembly polls.