A risky gamble, a brash solo charge and even betrayal is how the BJP’s move to go it alone in the assembly elections in Haryana was described by its allies and adversaries alike. But the saffron party, gung-ho after its stunning showing in the Lok Sabha polls, did not budge. The gambit has paid off.
The resounding victory – 47 out of 90 assembly seats – will not only silence its critics, but also show that the BJP’s win in the parliamentary polls was not a flash in the pan. A fringe player dependent on established local players for decades, the party, powered by its principal campaigner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has swept the traditional stronghold of the Congress, tearing down all opposition.
MODI KE SAATH
In a repeat of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP ran a Modi-centric campaign, matching rival parties, the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), with an aggressive media blitzkrieg. Unlike Congress bigwigs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul, Modi, backed by BJP president Amit Shah’s micro-management skills, addressed rallies in every nook and cranny of the state, staking his own reputation.
A master of rhetoric who uses innuendo and sarcasm to good effect, he was able to retain the rapport he struck with the voters in the run-up to the parliamentary polls. His presence, underpinned by the party’s campaign theme, “Modi ke saath”, had even made two-time chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda of the Congress remark that Modi was campaigning as if he was fighting for the CM’s post and he had never seen a PM campaign so much in a small state.
Not that Modi had any choice. Though the party has half-a-dozen aspirants for the CM’s post, none has a compelling electoral record and pan-Haryana pull. Modi not just filled the gap. He led from the front, capturing the imagination of the change-hungry electors in the state. The massive lead in the party’s numbers, from 4 to 47, would not have been possible without him.
THE SAFFRON SURGE
The scale of triumph of the BJP, whose appeal was largely limited to urban dwellers and middle classes hitherto, reflects a groundswell of support. While it has expanded its core vote-bank in the urban areas, the saffron party has found support in substantial swathes of semi-urban and rural constituencies in different parts of the state. The BJP has swept north Haryana, Ahirwal and Gurgaon, besides making inroads into Bagar (Bhiwani and Fatehabad) and Bangar (Jind). The vote percentage has jumped from 9% to 33.2%. Of 21 districts, the BJP won all seats in Ambala, Gurgaon, Karnal, Mahendergarh, Panchkula, Rewari and Yamunanagar districts, winning seats where it has never done well in the past. In Nangal Chaudhary, where its candidate Daya Ram had polled barely 3% votes in 2009, BJP’s Abhe Singh Yadav, a retired IAS officer, has won the seat this time. Similarly, BJP’s Kulwant Ram Bazigar won the Guhla reserved seat in Kaithal where the party nominee had stood 6th with merely 1,532 (1%) votes in 2009. There are no less than half-a-dozen such seats.
Besides the 47 seats it won, the party is runner-up in another 18 assembly constituencies. It is a tad below the numbers – led in 52 and runner-up in 12 assembly constituencies – in the parliamentary polls. However, one district where the party did well in the parliamentary polls but slipped this time is Faridabad.
BJP leader in-charge of Haryana affairs Prof Jagdish Mukhi attributed the party’s stunning performance to Modi’s charisma and booth-level political management. “The RSS workers also work at the grassroots. When we decided to go solo, there was no dearth of naysayers. The move has worked,” he said. Similarly, Manohar Lal Khattar, who won from Karnal and is among front-runners for the chief minister’s post, told Hindustan Times that the party transcended the so-called caste and regional barriers, winning support from all communities across the state. “There were many who joined the party and have done well,” he said.
DERA AND DEFECTORS
While the BJP got widespread support from non-Jats, especially the upper castes, as expected, the new “converts to saffron” (read turncoats) and controversial Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda’s open support helped the party find support among Jats and Dalits.
While Jats have primarily gone with the INLD and the Congress, new entrants such as Birender Singh, Dharambir, Surender Singh etc. did help the party make a slight dent in some areas. The BJP had denied candidacy to kin of most of its leaders as part of its strategy to flog the Congress on the issue of dynasty politics, but had kept it open for turncoats. Also, the dera’s followers, mostly from poor sections, gravitated towards the saffron party in Bagar and Bangar regions of the state.