A poor electoral strategy and disconnect with leaders of its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have put the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) at a disadvantage ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Moreover, the HJC’s image of being a front aimed at polarising anti-Jat votes may cause hindrance to its ally, which is fighting to make its presence felt in the Jat-dominated seats too.
Born out of infighting in the Congress, the party was floated in 2007 by Kuldeep Bishnoi, younger son of former Congress chief minister late Bhajan Lal.In its maiden Lok Sabha elections in 2009, the HJC secured 10% votes by fielding Ahir candidates in Mahendergarh and Gurgaon, Punjabi candidates in Faridabad, Kar nal and Kurukshetra, and a Balmiki candidate in the Ambala segment. Bhajan Lal was the lone HJC candidate to win a Lok Sabha seat (Hisar). After his death in 2011, Bishnoi had won the byelection.
In 2011, it struck an alliance with the BJP. As per the pre-poll agreement, the BJP and the HJC had to contest from Haryana’s eight and two parliamentary seats, respectively.
The HJC was keen to contest from Hisar and Karnal this time. Bishnoi even announced the candidature of his controversial elder brother Chander Mohan from Karnal. However, under BJP pressure, the HJC not only withdrew its candidate within 24 hours of the announcement but also ceded the seat to the saffron party.
When senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj objected to Bishnoi’s plan to induct controversial Congress rebel Venod Sharma, the HJC chief told the BJP leadership not to meddle in his party’s affairs. However, he finally had to shut the doors on Venod.
“Now it is up to the BJP to take the final decision,” Bishnoi had told HT on Thursday evening.
His heavy dependence on the top BJP leadership, while ignoring local leaders, is seen as a major handicap. Moreover, BJP and HJC leaders lack connect and usually do not support each other.
For Bishnoi, the tie-up is crucial to keep him in the state political arena in the long run as he has already been named the alliance’s chief ministerial candidate for the assembly elections to be held later this year. As a section of the BJP leadership has repeatedly hinted at aligning with the Indian National Lok Dal ( INLD), Bishnoi never misses a chance to highlight the conviction of top INLD leaders, including Om Prakash Chautala, in the teachers’ recruitments scam.
Bishnoi’s father Bhajan Lal was known for his anti-Jat politics and political observers feel that the HJC has been unable to shed this image.
“Firstly, it was immature on Bishnoi’s part to field his elder brother, having a controversial past in Karnal, to take on two-time Congress MP Arvind Sharma and other tough opponents. Secondly, his adamant attitude of not opting for a candidate in the Jat belt exposed his skewed politics,” says an observer.
However, Bishnoi says he is confident of taking on the Chautala clan of the INLD on their home turf, Sirsa, from where he has fielded two-time MP Sushil Kumar Indora.
“Bishnoi had forwarded the plea that his father had won the Karnal Lok Sabha seat in 1998, becoming the only non-Brahmin candidate to have done it so far. But he conveniently ignored the fact that Bhajan Lal, considered a strongman of the Cong ress, lost by a huge margin of 1.47 lakh votes to the BJP’s ID Swami in the 1999 general elections,” said a BJP leader.