In the land of fence-sitters
Political heat in Haryana is creating an atmosphere conducive for fence-sitters to cross over.
The next general election is scheduled to be held in the first half of 2019 but the political activities have been intensified by focussing on one-to-one contest, which seems to be a bare thought at this point of time. The high voltage political heat in Haryana is creating an atmosphere conducive to inspire fence-sitters to cross boundaries. Before taking stock of the expected moves by the leaders, it would be proper to understand the precedents of politics in the earlier years of its creation as a separate state in November 1966, by carving it out from Punjab. The new generation is, of course, unaware of the opportunistic precedents set by the then leaders; the same was followed by the leaders in other states
Haryana witnessed political instability immediately after the election for its first Legislative Assembly in 1967. The first Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD), a non-Congress government headed by Rao Birender Singh, was formed with large-scale defection from 48 Member Congress Legislative Party. The state earned a bad name due to the frequent defection of MLAs, especially four times in a single day by an MLA elected from Pataudi. The phrase 'aaya ram gaya ram' eclipsed the image of the state, and later became a ground for enacting Anti-Defection law in the country. Rao walked over from his Congress Party with a dozen MLAs and had to strive hard to retain his flock together due to cross defections by the MLAs. He formed his separate Vishal Haryana Party and a group of 12 Jan Sangh MLAs stood firmly behind him, though the independents and others were prone to defection
The other states followed Haryana to form SVD governments by engineering defections from the Congress Party. Haryana also paved way for Bharat Bhraman of MLAs to keep the dissidents intact, with an aim to dislodge government of their own party; the then Minister in Devi Lal government, Bhajan Lal took majority of MLAs to other states and succeeded in taking over the reign of the government of the same Janata Party in 1979. The practice of taking MLAs to an undisclosed destination in other states or moving them from one place to another under so-called Bharat Bhraman is being practiced even today, by the parties. Haryana also surprised the political fraternity when the then Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, along with his Cabinet and Janata Party MLAs, crossed over to Congress after Indira Ji again became Prime Minister in 1980; Bhajan Lal continued to hold his post in the new scenario. Again, Haryana witnessed a unique regrouping by affecting a change of the leading coalition partner holding the post of CM to anoint a new CM of a different political party in July 1999. The junior party, BJP in the coalition headed by Bansi Lal's Haryana Vikas Party deserted coalition to join hands with Indian National Lok Dal of Devi Lal, to offer the post of CM to OP Chautala under the new coalition. BJP continued in the new government by holding the earlier portfolios. BJP again deserted its partner, Jan Hit Congress – BL-Bhajan Lal, just before 2014 Assembly election.
It is another surprising fact that the three hereditary regional parties- Haryana Vikas Party, Vishal Haryana Party and Jan Hit Congress later merged with their mother political party, after enjoying power in the different coalitions. The only exception is Chautala's regional party, which is still a force even after changing its nomenclature a number of times. Haryana is known for switching parties by the leaders just at the threshold of filing nominations for the ensuing elections, upon carefully assessing the prospects of a political party which might be reaping bumper gains in the election.
As rail passengers jump out of the slow-moving passenger trains upon immediate arrival of an express train, the same kind of trend is evident with the party leaders before the elections. It's time to discuss one by one, the possibilities of fence sitters and their expected moves between the three main political parties in Haryana.
The ruling BJP, in the state and at Centre, will have to strive hard to score the same number of seats this time, which looks impossible as much water has flown in the river Yamuna since 2014. The two Union Ministers and one sitting MP from Kurukshetra have been openly roaring their dissatisfaction; they joined BJP in 2014 on taking note of a strong wave in its favor. It is understood that Raj Kumar Saini, elected from Kurukshetra, and one Union Minister Rao Inderjit Singh, from Gurugram, have formed their parties/ front called Loktantra Suraksha Manch and Insaf Party, respectively. Both, the Union Ministers and former Congressmen, Inderjit Singh and Virender Singh joined BJP sometime in 2014 and were keen to head the government in Haryana. Nobody can predict their next political move.
Congress workers are divided between the factions of former CM BS Hooda and PCC President Ashok Tanwar. Both have been simultaneously touring the state, leading their Jan Kranti yatra and Haryana Bachao-Privartan Lao – Cycle Yatra, respectively. This will affect the chances of the party in the elections leading to desertion by the leaders. The INLD has tied up with BSP for the Parliamentary polls, though the ground reality is different as the workers of both the parties belong to different caste group who cannot go along for a longer duration; this combination will not be able to generate any wave in the absence of OP Chautala. The party will weaken as BSP has no roots in the state. INLD's tie-up with BJP earlier had been fruitful as both parties have the support of Jat and Punjabi communities having an equal percentage of population (28 per cent) in the state. All this will make ground for fence-sitters to jump on the side they prefer.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)