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Hotspot Haryana

Scheduled tomorrow, Haryana is expected to witness hectic electoral battles from all national and regional parties to elect a new Legislative Assembly with caste arithmetic envisioned to play a major bellwether

Lines for the Haryana assembly elections have been drawn. Leaders of different parties are ready to fire salvos against their political rivals to emerge victorious in the state elections commencing tomorrow.

In every election across the country, no candidate loses the battle until the counting of votes comes to a closure. The Haryana assembly poll is no different. Whether it's the ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the grand old party, Congress, or the disintegrated Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), all major stakeholders of the Haryana's vote-share are claiming victory over the others. But the actuality is that only one party that would get the maximum number of seats in the 90-member state legislative assembly and will have the mandate to rule the state.

So far, elections in Haryana have been fought on grounds of polarisation of Jats and non-Jats, but this years' scenario is expected to be much different. The BJP claims that it's not a fight to win the vote-share of all the important communities of the state, rather the people will exercise their franchise for the comprehensive development of the state.

However, Congress and other regional parties are banking upon the anti-incumbency factor as well as the socio-economic factors. Surprisingly, both issues are not visible on the ground in the state as there is no strong political alliance to stop the BJP from winning the state elections.

According to noted political commentator Arvind Mohan, it appears that the opposition seems to contest elections only for representation. "The major concern is that the fierce battle is not visible. It appears that there is no battle or they are not a part of this contest. There is a general dissent among people but the opposition is not able to bring that lot to their side," the expert said.

Interestingly, both groups – Jats and non-Jats – are not much in favour of electing the incumbent Chief Minister, ML Khattar again. The violence against the non-Jat community in February 2016 had left 30 dead with several injured. Memories of the carnage remain fresh among the people of the state.

Leaders of non-Jat communities hold the view that when Jats were looting and burning their shops, the non-Jat CM was just a mere spectator. The irony of the political flux is that there is no alternative for them.

"Looking at the opposition's stride into the mandate, it is unclear which side the tide might sway. The rival factions of Congress have also left the party. Former President of Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee, Ashok Tanwar is no more in the party while former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda has also locked himself out," Mohan said. Adding that the party is hoping that Hooda, who had once made up his mind to leave the party, would probably ensure the party's victory in Jat stronghold areas.

It remains unclear whether Ashok Tanwar's decision to support the Jannayak Janata Party (JPP) will make an impact on Congress vote-share.

If it happens, Congress will lose about 5-6 seats. The existence of Chautala family is also at stake – when the family is involved in the battle of succession, winning elections by beating the Modi factor becomes very tough for any political party.

"Though Congress replaced Tanwar with another Dalit community leader, Kumari Selja, it's not evident that the grand old party can get the support of Dalits in the state. In the 2014 assembly elections, Dalits had voted for BJP and that's why the saffron party had won the elections comfortably," Mohan stated. He further said that the opposition has several issues to corner the government, but they are not capitalising the anti-government issues in particular.

When asked if the declaration of Selja as the Congress president would have made any difference if the decision would have come early, Mohan said, "She is just a replacement of Tanwar as the population of Dalits are decisive in the state. It's another big faction like Jats. Congress has been trying it hard to vie this section for several years, but nothing has yielded. The party has not yet been able to acquire a strong vote-share of this community."

"The BSP has more inroads among the community. If we combine the vote-share of Dalits and Jats, it amounts to about 50 per cent, which is enough for any party to win even the toughest election. Given the socio-economic conditions of both the communities, it's next to impossible to bring both the communities on the same page," Mohan further added.

Countering the views of Mohan, Haryana Congress president, Kumari Selja, said, "The economic slowdown is a major issue in the state as it has jolted the lives of people very hard. The party is also making assertive efforts to highlight various people-oriented issues. We are confident that the consolidated efforts of the party would reap rewards in the elections."

"The scenario has changed after Selja has taken over. There is no much resistance in the ranks and files of the party, which were earlier prevalent. Since this issue has been eliminated, all the key leaders have concentrated in their respective areas which may convert into winning majority of the seats," a political master said.

Commenting on the BJP's chances of winning the elections, BJP's state president, Subhash Barala, said, "People of the state will vote for the development and not for promoting caste-based politics. We have won Lok Sabha elections with a thumping majority and we will win state assembly elections too with an absolute majority. The fight is between two bi-polar parties – one that eliminated corruption and the other that encouraged corruption."

A recent analysis conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) suggests that the BJP has a stronger hold in the state. Earlier, BJP had played a supporting role to the INLD as well as to the Haryana Vikas Party. In the 2009 Haryana assembly elections, it contested independently but won a mere four seats. But things had drastically changed since then. The Modi charisma has worked wonders and as a result, BJP won 47 seats in the 2014 assembly polls.

Tomorrow, 74 political parties will be contesting in a quest for glory. In the 2014 elections, there were only 43 parties – indicating almost a two-fold increase. As many as 1,169 candidates are fighting the ballot battle to enter the 90-seat assembly this year.

As per the reports, out of the 1,138 candidates, 279 are from national parties, 145 are from state parties, 369 are from registered unrecognized parties and 376 candidates are contesting independently. Among them, 117 have declared criminal cases against themselves.

Interestingly, out of the 1,138 candidates, 481 are crorepatis, which means 42 per cent of contenders have declared assets worth more than Rs 1 crore. As per the Association for Democratic Reforms' report, the crorepatis are evenly distributed among the prominent political parties -- 79 out of 87 candidates from INC, 79 out of 89 candidates from BJP, 62 out of 87 candidates from JJP, 50 out of 80 candidates from INLD and 34 out of 86 candidates from BSP are crorepatis.

Voting in single phase Assembly elections for all 90 seats will be held tomorrow and is scheduled to begin at 7 am across all polling booths. The counting of votes will be held on October 24 – just three days before Diwali. Whatsoever the poll result would be, it will undoubtedly bring smiles on the faces of cracker sellers across the state.

Dhirendra Kumar

Dhirendra Kumar

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