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Haryana Assembly Election 2019: Congress infighting, Khattar's performance and Jat votes - here's all you need to know

CM Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP is hoping to retain power in the Vidhan Sabha election, amid challenge from a fragmented opposition

October 20, 2019 / 07:58 AM IST

The state of Haryana is heading for polls to elect a fresh Legislative Assembly. Elections will be held for all of the 90 seats in the Vidhan Sabha.

The tenure of the sitting Assembly is scheduled to end on November 2.

Voters in Haryana will head for polling in a single phase on October 21. On the same day, voters in Maharashtra will also cast their ballots. Counting of votes will happen on October 24.

Over 1.8 crore people in Haryana are eligible to vote. The Election Commission (EC) is setting up 19,425 polling stations across the state.

Lowdown on the political situation


Since Haryana attained statehood in 1966, the Indian National Congress has been the dominant party. However, the Vishal Haryana Party, Janata Party (subsequently the Janata Dal) and the Haryana Vikas Party have also held reigns of the state.

Haryana was governed by Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) from 1999 to 2005 before Congress returned to power. Led by chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the party govered the state for two consecutive terms.

In 2014, the BJP came to power for the first time in the state, banking on the ‘Narendra Modi’ wave that had swept the country less than six months before the Assembly polls.

Manohar Lal Khattar – a Punjabi – was picked to become chief minister. Khattar was the first non-Jat chief minister of Haryana in 18 years, after Bhajan Lal.

While Khattar was heavily criticised for his handling of the Jat protests that rocked the state in 2016-17, he has been backed by the party high command.

On the other hand, Congress has been impacted by the constant infighting. The INLD, after years of unease and conflict within its first family, split in 2018. Om Prakash Chautala’s grandson Dushyant formed the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) after being expelled from INLD. In the Jind bypoll earlier this year, JJP finished second – but ahead of INLD and Congress.

Also read: A brief profile of Haryana’s Chautalas

Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Yogendra Yadav’s Swaraj India are also in fray.

With the opposition unity in tatters, BJP is hoping to accomplish ‘Mission 75’. They are hoping to win at least 75 of the 90 seats this time.

In the 2014 state election, BJP had won 47 of the 90 seats to comfortably form the government. The Congress had finished third with just 15 seats. The INLD won 19 seats.

BJP had secured just over 33 percent votes. This was followed by INLD's 24.2 percent and Congress' 20.7 percent.

First after the Lok Sabha polls

The BJP swept Haryana in the 2019 general election, winning all of the 10 seats there. BJP’s vote share increased significantly as compared to 2014. A closer look at election data shows that even if Congress had allied with the JJP, the Opposition could have only won the Rohtak seat.

Besides Congress, the major loser in the general election was the INLD. The party saw its vote share plummet.

Key things to watch out for

Impact of factionalism in Congress: On September 4, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi appointed Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Kumari Selja as the President of the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC).

This came amid tremendous pressure from HPCC members, including the Hooda camp, to replace then chief Ashok Tanwar.

Also read: Opinion | Hubris and heartburn in Haryana Congress

Hooda was made the Congress Legislative Party leader in the state and was appointed as the Chairman of Congress' state Election Management Committee.

Barely a month later, Tanwar, resigned from the primary membership of the party over alleged irregularities in ticket distribution.

This factionalism may impact Congress’ prospects, political observers suggest.

Also read: Opinion | Congress rebels in Haryana are putting old guard on notice

What happens to Hoodas’ bastions and Jat votes? Around 27 percent of the state’s population is made up of Jats. There have been five chief ministers from the community.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Hooda himself, and his son Deepender Singh Hooda, were defeated from Sonepat and Rohtak, respectively. The two seats fall in the Jat heartland of Haryana and were once considered Hooda bastions.

There are at least 23 Jat dominated Assembly constituencies in the state – enough to make or break any party’s chances.

Having consolidated its non-Jat base, BJP is now leaving no stone unturned to capture these Jat-dominated seats.

This is seen from the campaign pattern. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Khattar and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath are holding rallies in these areas extensively.

JJP’s first election: This will be the first Assembly election for JJP. With the INLD having lost ground over years, JJP is hoping to capture that space.

Economic, jobs and farmer distress: The election comes at a time when the country is witnessing a slowdown in the economy, with the April to June quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth plummeting to a seven-year-low of 5 percent.

The slump was for the fifth straight quarter as consumer demand and private investment decelerated vis-à-vis the global environment.

To make matters worse, the unemployment data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in May confirmed the pre-Lok Sabha election leaked report’s claim of joblessness in 2017-18 being at a 45-year-high of 6.1 percent.

Agriculture and allied activities accounted for 17 percent of Haryana’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) in 2017-18. Congress has been taking on the Khattar government over farm distress.

Also read: How Maharashtra and Haryana fared under the outgoing governments

An ABP News-C Voter opinion poll conducted before the model code of conduct kicked-in, predicts that the BJP will sweep the election. With 78 seats to its name, BJP could win a two-third majority in the House. Congress could finish second with just eight seats, the survey predicts. JJP and others will win one and three seats, respectively, the survey suggests.

In terms of the vote share, the survey predicts that the BJP to get 46 percent of the votes and the Congress bagging 22 percent. JJP and INLD could win 8 percent and 3 percent votes, respectively, the survey findings suggest.
Nachiket Deuskar

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