Riding Modi wave, from a fringe player to challenger

  • Hitender Rao, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Sep 11, 2014 11:46 IST

For a fringe player in Haryana politics, circumstances were never so conducive for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Riding on the Modi sentiment, the saffron party did the unthinkable during the Lok Sabha polls – emphatically winning seven out of the eight seats it contested.

What was more significant about their victory was that only two winners – Rattan Lal Kataria from Ambala and Krishan Pal Gujjar from Faridabad – actually came from the BJP stable, while the remaining five were outsiders. Rao Inderjit, Dharambir and Ramesh Kaushik were former Congressmen, while Ashwani Chopra was a last-minute paratrooper and Raj Kumar Saini a known party-hopper. It was apparent that people had overwhelmingly voted for the-then prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, Narendra Modi in complete disregard of who the candidates were.

The BJP, which won four seats in 2009 assembly polls, also took leads in 53 segments spread over eight LS seats it contested in the recent parliamentary polls.
It led in all 27 assembly segments of Faridabad, Karnal and Ambala LS constituencies, six each segments of Kurukshetra, Sonepat, Bhiwani-Mahendergarh and, Gurgaon seats and even tasted success in two segments of Rohtak LS seat.

Haryana on its mind

Buoyed by its superlative performance, the BJP for the first time seems excited and confident of doing extremely well in the upcoming assembly polls. In fact, the party fancies its chances of forming the next government in the state.
Their ascendancy has also been acknowledged by the rival Congress leaders. In fact, the manner in which several leaders from the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) switched over to the saffron party created a public perception that the BJP is the principal challenger to the Congress and the INLD.
While the party has taken on board many Congress and INLD deserters to sustain the impression of its ascendancy, it remains to be seen as to how well they are actually accommodated during the ticket allocation.

Will Modi factor work?

The smugness being shown by the BJP before the polls could be due to the high tide it is riding on. But the question being asked in political circles is whether the BJP is doing enough hard work to capture the Haryana throne.

The party has negligible presence in villages in terms of workers and supporters. The support it got from rural areas in the LS polls was due to the Modi factor. But the million dollar question is that will the Modi factor work in the assembly polls. Results of the bypolls in Uttarakhand, Bihar, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh where the BJP performed well below expectations indicate that local issues play a crucial role in state polls. Also, Modi’s poll catchphrase of “acche din aane wale hain” seems to have got lost in the harsh reality of increasing inflation.

The BJP has also strategically refrained from projecting a chief ministerial candidate. While party leaders say that by not projecting anyone they have blocked prospects of infighting and sabotage, the fact is that if the BJP names one it will send a clear signal to the electorate.
“The saffron party knows that non-Jat voters are exasperated over the 18-year continuous reign of successive Jat chief ministers and wants to encash this sentiment.
On the other hand, it does not want to antagonise the powerful Jat votebank, which has a tendency to get polarised. So, it is trying to do a balancing act and create ambivalence. Roping in of Jat leaders like Birender Singh and Dharambir from the Congress is a part of BJP’s strategy to make a dent in the Jat votebank of the INLD and the Congress,” said a Haryana political watcher.

Break up with Bishnoi

BJP’s split up with its ally, Kuldeep Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), is not a good omen for the party. While it is true that Bishnoi’s demand for 45 assembly seats and the chief minister’s chair looked far-fetched and unreasonable considering that his HJC lost both the Lok Sabha seats it contested, the split up will divide the non-Jat voters – a segment being eyed by both the parties.

Political analysts say their tie-up would have been an ideal coalition to attract the non-Jat electorate. But the break up has created another entity in the multi-cornered contest.

TOMORROW: Haryana Janhit Congress

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