Political ties: Old partners to new allies may try to play caste card

  • Vishal Joshi, Hindustan Times, Karnal
  • Updated: Sep 13, 2014 11:35 IST

Hoping to play a crucial role in case of a hung House, two political alliances may try to play caste card to woo voters in the upcoming Haryana assembly elections.

The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), the ruling party in Punjab, have announced to contest Haryana assembly elections in an alliance. On the other hand, the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) and Jan Chetna Party (JCP), too, have tied up.

After having a bitter experience with the BJP, HJC president Kuldeep Bishnoi snapped ties with its ally for three years.

As per the earlier BSP-HJC poll pact, Bishnoi, son of late chief minister Bhajan Lal, was to be projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the combine. But following Bishnoi’s defeat and BJP’s impressive electoral show in the parliamentary elections, including in Haryana, the alliance did not last and Bishnoi had to tie-up with rebel Congress leader Venod Sharma’s JCP.

Cong to go it alone

Observers say after being in power for nearly a decade, the Congress is facing a challenge as seniors leaders are leaving the party when it, for the first time, has the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a formidable adversary in the state. Maintaining its past tradition in Haryana, the Congress will go it alone this time too.

The BSP has announced that it would contest elections independently with an agenda to install a non-Jat as chief minister. Three-time parliamentarian Arvind Sharma has been nominated as the BSP’s chief ministerial candidate.

Political observers say Bishnoi is pursuing the political legacy of his late father to emerge as a prominent non-Jat force and the HJC-JCP combine may influence the targeted voters.

“The HJC-JCP alliance is sure to make a dent in the BJP’s vote-bank. Bishnoi has supporters in almost every constituency while moneyed Venod Sharma has workers in few constituencies of Ambala, Kurukshetra and Karnal districts. After being humiliated on not being projected as the CM candidate, Bishnoi is bound to scuttle BJP’s votes,” said the observer.

Bishnoi has significant political influence in Hisar, Sirsa and Fatehabad districts.

On the other hand, the SAD has expressed firm support to the INLD, whose top leaders, including party president and ex-chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Singh Chautala, are in jail in connection with the JBT recruitment scam.

The SAD and BJP are allies in Punjab and at the Centre but the Badal family is committed to stand by Chautalas due to their old family ties.

“The INLD has a traditional vote-bank among the Jats, a section of Punjabis, while the SAD support might help in getting Sikh votes. Traditionally, Sikhs go with the INLD and the issue of formation of Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) is expected to be exploited by this alliance to corner the Congress,” said the analyst, adding that as per the trends during previous assembly polls, the vote-bank of the saffron party and the INLD was different.

While the SAD is the biggest opponent of the bifurcation of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the INLD has publicly termed the formation of a separate religious panel in Haryana as a direct interference in the affairs of Sikhs.

Badals with INLD

Those maintaining a close watch on Haryana politics say following jail to Chautalas, the top Akali leadership, including Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Chautala and his deputy and son Sukhbir Singh Badal, had campaigned intensively in the parliamentary elections.

“Badals had raked up religious issues of anti-Sikh riots and attack on Golden Temple to corner the Congress, while Bishnoi was targeted for his late father and then CM Bhajan Lal’s alleged role in excesses against Sikhs. SAD president Sukhbir Badal has already said the INLD-SAD alliance would target the Congress and not the BJP,” said a Haryana watcher.

Observers said in the 2009 assembly polls, no party got clear majority in the 90-member House and the HJC members, who had defected to enable the Congress form government, were suitably rewarded.

“Even the independent candidates, including Om Prakash Jain, Sultan Singh Jadola (now in the BJP) and Gopal Kanda, who floated his own party, were made ministers and chief parliamentary secretaries. Small parties are hoping to gain in case such a situation re-emerges after the upcoming polls for obvious gains,” said an observer.

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