The BJP is certainly in a strong position in Haryana, as observed in the run up to the elections. In keeping with this positive sentiment, the BJP is likely to choose Capt. Abhimanyu as its Chief Ministerial candidate. The other possible contender is Rao Inderjit Singh, former Union Minister who came in from the Indian National Congress, earlier this year.
The Hooda administration is facing a strong anti-incumbency this time and the people have now given up on BS Hooda who finds himself mired in scam after scam. His association with the Gandhi family and the construction giant, DLF have both gone against him and the people are increasingly voicing a need for change.
With this backdrop, the BJP has been in process of identifying a suitable candidate, someone who could represent the aspiration of a young and emerging Haryana, and one who did not carry the baggage of corruption charges or character taint.
Amit Shah, the BJP’s chief strategist for the campaign in Haryana, rightly held off announcing the Chief Ministerial candidate in order to preempt any internal squabbling amongst potential candidates, in the run up to the elections. It worked, as the party has campaigned in one united voice for ‘Mission 60 plus’. And now the party goes into voting tomorrow with the promise that it will give a leader who brings a fresh wave of hope to a scam weary state.
Between the two serious contenders, Capt. Abhimanyu and Rao Inderjit Singh, Capt. Abhimanyu seems to hold the better chance of getting the party high command nod, given his longstanding association with the party. Rao Inderjit Singh’s switchover from the INC may not find too many supporters within the party, many of who would prefer to rally around a familiar face than a recently acquired one.
Capt. Abhimanyu is not new to the party and has risen from the grassroots, working his way upwards within the party. He has been entrusted with the responsibility to serve as the party spokesperson, at the national and state level. In the last few years, he has been building his relationships with the common man across caste and community lines and has full exposure to the needs on social and developmental issues plaguing the state.
Based on his extensive work in the state, he has articulated his vision for a Naya Haryana and the same has been well received by the people. His vision can be accessed in his blog called Naya Haryana.
For the Indian National Congress (INC), BS Hooda seems to have become his party’s biggest liability and can at best reduce the number of votes for the BJP rather than garner votes for itself, to make a hat-trick. Hooda’s traditional strength has been his ability to garner support from certain influential groups within the farming community that is dominated by the Jats, however, this segment is now in two minds on whether to continue to back him or throw in their lot with the BJP, especially since the party is in power at the centre. The result could be a split that could weaken the INC, while strengthening the BJP.
The other party that could end up slicing up the votes could be Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). With Om Prakash Chautala making his way back to jail and his son Ajay Chautala already there, the father and son duo have lost a lot of political ground in the state, making way for the BJP to capitalize on Congress’s follies.
However, there are still pockets of traditional support from old timers that still hold loyalty towards Chaudhary ‘Tau’ Devi Lal and by extension, to his son Om Prakash Chautala but that may not be enough to mount a serious challenge for power in the state.
The best INLD is expected to achieve is act as a spoiler to both INC and the BJP, by splitting the votes and hope for a post poll alliance (though highly unlikely), in case neither BJP nor INC is able to rustle up the necessary numbers. Om Prakash Chautala’s other son Abhay and his grandson, Dushyant Chautala, will find it very difficult to hold on to the numbers achieved by the party in the previous election.
With this backdrop, the Haryana Janhit Party (HJC- BL) led by Kuldeep Bishnoi, finds itself in the wilderness. Kuldeep Bishnoi was hoping to go to polls in alliance with the BJP but could not come to an acceptable formula on seat sharing with the BJP.
This has left the party without the support of BJP cadres in the state but is likely to support BJP in the post poll scenario, especially if BJP is not able to garner majority on its own. HJC has more to gain in going with BJP rather than sit in opposition, where it can’t make much of a difference on its own.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) finds itself in a peculiar position in Haryana. It’s fielding two candidates in alliance with its earlier partner INLD, from Ambala City and Kalianwala in Sirsa district. The party has decided to continue their earlier association, though it remains to be seen whether the voters will extend their support to the two candidates.
The BJP’s confidence in its ability to pull off victory in both Haryana and Maharashtra on its own, is a gamble that could go either way. In both states, it can only improve its position and if the party comes to power on its own, in either or both states, the BJP will have arrived as an alternate to the INC, as a national party that can pose a serious challenge to regional ones. The party is already nibbling its way into West Bengal and Tamil Nadu and a victory in Haryana and/or Maharashtra will not only strengthen the party but will also shake up the regional ones.
So is the Modi magic going to work in the state? Good question. The earlier by-elections came as a mixed bag for the party but Haryana seems ready to open the gates to BJP. This will be one big fight to watch.