The Election Commission has announced that Legislative Assembly elections in Haryana will be held on as October 21. Results of the Assembly elections will be out on October 24, just three days after the polling date.
The tenure of the present Haryana Legislative Assembly expires on November 2, 2019. In 2014, polling took place in a single phase on October 15, and the results were announced on October 19. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power by securing 47 assembly seats, the Congress got 15, the INLD 19, and others secured 9 out of 90 seats. Now, the BJP is aiming to retain power and increase its tally from 47 to 75 seats in the 90-member House. Whereas, the Congress, the main opposition party, who lost in 2014 after ruling the state for ten years, is yet to come out of its own internal leg-pulling doll drum.
It seems like the BJP in Haryana still hopes to ride on the back of PM Modi’s popularity and expects overwhelming support from the people over the issue of the abrogation of Article 370. But, here arises the question of whether Modi’s name and praying on the ‘Raag (tune) Of Nationalism’ alone will make the BJP strong enough to sail through this election successfully.
The present Chief Minister of the BJP-led Haryana government, Manohar Lal Khattar, is very much confident about the win. While addressing a press conference in Chandigarh just before the declaration of elections in the state by Election Commission on September 21, he said, “The BJP is strong on all the 90 assembly seats in the state. We will cross the 75 plus seats in the state assembly, I am confident about it.”
But, at this time, the political atmosphere in the state is different. The main opposition party, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has been smashed to the ground, and a new breakaway party Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) has also emerged out of Devi Lal’s INLD. This bifurcation has weakened both the groups and now it seems that neither might be able to secure a noticeable number of seats. So, the Jat voters, the main base of INLD, may shift to another Jat leader in congress, Bhupender Singh Hooda, giving him and the Congress a major boost.
However the Congress, that had gone to ‘zero level‘ in the last five years under the leadership of state president Ashok Tanwar, now seems to have come out of the ICU, probably due to the leadership of its Rajya Sabha member Selja Kumari who belongs to a Scheduled Caste group, and former Chief Minister Bhupender Singh Hooda. In the changed scenario, and due to feeble third or fourth fronts, Congress seems to be the only alternative to BJP before the voters.
In the recently held Lok Sabha polls, getting a complete hold of the state by winning all 10 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP, using the name of ‘Modi’ and banking on nationalism and other issues, had dashed the hope of opposition parties in the state. Encouraged by the Lok Sabha results, BJP may fight the State Assembly elections also to fulfill its dream of securing more than 75 seats out of 90.
But, this being the Assembly elections, the issues surrounding the grounds and local level progress of the BJP government, and its failure to resolve the Assembly-level problems will be decisive factors. This can be evident from the clear cut decision of the Greater Faridabad Residents’ Association, who made it loud and clear at the outset that their vote would go only to that candidate who builds the pending Master Road for them. Angry over being forced to use a narrow road for seven years, despite having paid external development charges, a resolute “No road, No vote” is their slogan for the upcoming Assembly elections.
After the failure of Congress to attract voters over issues like note-bandi (demonetisation) and GST against issues of nationalism and lack of leadership within Congress by the BJP during the recent Lok Sabha elections, now the Haryana state Congress leadership has started to highlight the local issues and hope for favourable voting in the Assembly polls.
While addressing a press conference on September 18, the newly appointed Haryana Congress chief Selja said, “The BJP leaders are using the scrapping of the special status of Jammu & Kashmir and National Register of Citizens (NRC) issue as a poll plank in Haryana to divert the attention from its failures”.
The CLP leader and Chairman State Congress Election Management Committee, former CM of Haryana, Bhupender Singh Hooda, rejecting the BJP’s claim of winning more than 75 of the 90 assembly seats said, “It does not matter whatever claims they make. But people have made up their mind to throw them out. The issues in Lok Sabha polls and Vidhan Sabha polls are different. In the Vidhan Sabha election, people will cast their votes based on regional issues.”
But, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar thinks nationalism is s deciding factor, and still wants to sail his election boat with the support of the waves flowing in the name of Modi and nationalism. “When a martyr’s mortal remains are brought back to his village, nobody asks about his caste… Nationalism will be the deciding factor in the coming assembly elections. It has thrown caste arithmetic out of the picture,” Khattar said.
In an interview to PTI during his ongoing statewide Jan Ashirwad Yatra, Khattar said, “After the abrogation of Article 370, the admiration of BJP and its leadership has further increased in Haryana and across the country.”
Asked whether the abrogation of Article 370 will play a pivotal role in the upcoming polls, in his media meet in Chandigarh on September 21, Khattar reiterated that the scrapping of Article 370 has always been on the core agenda of Bharatiya Janata Party. However, he also claimed developmental and social welfare works to his credit and hoped for a better crop of votes in the State Assembly elections. At the Chandigarh press meet, Khattar claimed that 4,300 villages in the state are getting round-the-clock power supply and in the next six months, all the 6,600 villages will get 24-hour power supply. He said that his government would work for the upliftment of those families whose annual income is less than ₹1.8 lakh.
The decades-long pending Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal (SYL) issue has remained the talk of the town in each election, but no party has ever taken it seriously and are luring voters with plain talk. and no actual end. Khattar had also assured to resolve the matter of SYL water-sharing.
Political circles conclude that on the one hand, the BJP will try to take the ball to the goal point using ‘Modi’s name and the nationalism game’, and on the other hand, the opposition will try to divert the path towards local-level issues. Now it’s in the hands of the voters of Haryana as to which way they blow the winds of success.