A virtual semi-final before the assembly elections in 2014, the fight for 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana holds the key to the next Vidhan Sabha. The ruling Congress is battling a near decade long anti-incumbency with its back to the wall – plagued by factionalism and infighting.
A lot is at stake for the opposition parties which till now have looked in complete disarray.
For the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which is the principal opposition party in the assembly, the challenge will be to overcome the handicap in the wake of the incarceration of its top two leaders, Om Prakash Chautala and his elder son Ajay Chautala.
The party would hope to re-establish its supremacy under the command of Chautala’s younger son, Abhay Chautala.
The BJP which has an alliance with Kuldeep Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), a good outing will mean a complete resurrection. Bishnoi’s own political future depends a lot on the outcome of the Lok Sabha polls.
The fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) whose top two leaders, Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav, come from Haryana is eyeing to gain a foothold in the state with a clear eye on the assembly polls.
The four-cornered contest
Bhupinder Hooda (Cong): Two-time back to back chief minister, Hooda is eyeing a third term in the assembly. The outcome of the Lok Sabha polls will be critical to his plans. The chief minister is hoping to ride out the anti-incumbency sentiment by a good showing on his home turf of Rohtak and adjoining Sonepat seats, an area from where he draws his political clout. A poor showing will also provide fresh ammunition to his detractors within the Congress who will bay for his blood.
Abhay Chautala (INLD): The Ellenabad legislator, who is the younger son of incarcerated INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala, is the fastener that has kept the flock together in adversity. Abhay, who has single-handedly led the INLD poll management and campaign, is one leader to whom party cadres look up to in the absence of stalwarts. A good performance will cement him as the only frontline leader of the INLD and boost the party’s prospects in the assembly polls.
Kuldeep Bishnoi (HJC): The 2014 Lok Sabha elections will be crucial for Bishnoi as his political future will be at stake. The tie-up with the BJP looks wobbly and the party holds the key to Bishnoi’s plans to take a shot at the assembly. A good showing will have an impact on the longevity of the alliance and Bishnoi’s own aspiration to be the first non-Jat chief minister in over 18 years.
Ram Bilas Sharma (BJP): Too long in the wilderness, Sharma’s successive defeats in assembly elections have almost threatened to finish the political career of the former cabinet minister in the Bansi Lal-led HVP-BJP regime. Sharma’s appointment as the state BJP chief probably has come at the right juncture when the party is expecting to do well in the Lok Sabha elections under Narendra Modi. The saffron party and Sharma’s own quest for power in Haryana hinges on its performance in the Lok Sabha elections.
Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav (AAP): Both are Haryanvis and are keen to make inroads in Haryana. The Lok Sabha elections have come as an opportunity for the AAP to test the political waters of a state where, unlike Delhi, caste divisions are sharp.