The first hurdle, they say in hurdling, is not the most difficult one. All the same Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda must be pleased to have the confidence vote in the State Assembly out of his way. With the Congress strength at 40, six short of the majority mark in the 90-member house, Mr. Hooda would have backed himself to win the support of the seven Independents. After all, his party has decades-long experience in this game of wooing outsiders to its fold. He got his seven, plus the support of the lone Bahujan Samaj Party member. Although the Congress was no clear winner in the Assembly contest, it was the only party within striking distance of power, so quite naturally the Independents gravitated towards the Hooda camp. The walkout and abstention by the Haryana Janhit Congress (BL) made things easier for the ruling party, which won 47 trust votes as against the immediate requirement of 42. Given the political dynamics in Haryana, the opposition parties — the Indian National Lok Dal, which bagged 31 seats in the election, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which took four, and the HJC (BL), which won six — are unlikely to come together as a coherent unit. With a non-Congress alternative in the current Assembly seeming only a hazy theoretical possibility, Mr. Hooda was able to get off to a flying start.
But then the Chief Minister can forget only to his peril that this is Haryana, the State that enriched the vocabulary of political India by giving it the celebrated phrase ‘Aya Ram, Gaya Ram,’ after an MLA changed parties thrice in the course of a day in 1967. This means that while Mr. Hooda was able, with relatively little effort, to play the current situation to his advantage, he might not be able to do so consistently over a period of five years. Free-floating Independents are traditionally difficult to manage. Mr. Hooda will have to watch his back, and balance different sectional interests as he goes through his term. He will need to bear in mind that ultimately the stability of the government will depend less on accommodation and appeasement of the Independents than on his addressing the concerns and livelihood issues of the people. It can be safely predicted that at the first hint of the government’s unpopularity, the supporting blocs will threaten to move away; after all, what bind Independents to the ruling camp are the fishes and loaves of office. With the veteran INLD leader Om Prakash Chautala breathing down his neck, Chief Minister Hooda, unlike in the first term when he had a comfortable majority, must deliver on the governance front quickly. He will learn soon enough that the remaining hurdles present a much stiffer challenge than the first one.