All eyes on Mewat as key players switch sides ahead of state polls
With the Haryana Vidhan Sabha elections slated for September-October, political activity in the state is picking pace, with several key players across party lines switching sides. In one such crucial political switch, Nuh MLA and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) member Zakir Hussain joined the BJP on Tuesday.
An influential leader from Mewat, Hussain is a three-time MLA and his departure from the party has created a lacuna in opposition space in Nuh, at a time the INLD is already faltering across the state. While Hussain and the BJP are of the opinion that his addition will translate into a victory in the upcoming polls, political analysts said the BJP’s prospects in Mewat are unlikely to change for the better.
In the 2014 Haryana assembly polls, the BJP did not win a single constituency in Mewat, which has three Vidhan Sabha constituencies: Nuh, Punhana, and Ferozepur Jhirka. While Nuh MLA Hussain joined the BJP, Punhana MLA (who had earlier won as an independent candidate) Rahish Khan is also with the BJP. Meanwhile, Ferozepur Jhirka MLA, Naseem Ahmed, joined the Congress in April.
Zakir Hussain said he was hopeful that his joining the BJP would help the party win a majority of the seats in the region. He added that he and his supporters had seen the chief minister respond positively to the demands of the people of Mewat. “I have not opted for the BJP. The people of Mewat have forced me to join the BJP because the scenario in the Parliament has changed now. One can only fight with their supporters and my supporters had constantly pressured me to join the BJP,” he said.
Hussain added that in the current circumstances in the country, the people of Mewat wanted to give another chance to the present government. “People have faith in me. By my joining the BJP, we will not have just one or two seats, but all the seats in Mewat,” he said.
Ram Kanwar, political analyst and former professor, Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar, said Hussain’s move may not necessarily translate into a win for the party in Mewat, where Muslims are in a majority. “While making a choice, voters keep in mind both the party and the candidate. Regardless of the past performance of the candidate, they will also consider the party with which the candidate aligns. People from Mewat may vote to keep out the BJP,” Kanwar said.
In the 2014 Vidhan Sabha elections, Zakir Hussain won by more than half of the votes polled in Nuh. The total votes polled in Nuh were 122,224, and Hussain received 64,221 votes. Aftab Ahmad from the Congress came second with 31,425 votes, and BJP’s Sanjay ranked third with 24,222 votes in Nuh.
In Ferozepur Jhirka, the winning candidate was INLD’s Naseem Ahmad, with 40,320 votes. BJP’s Alam was fourth with 16,450 votes. In Punhana, independent candidate Rahish Khan won with 34,281 votes, while INLD’s candidate came second with 31,140 votes. BJP candidate Ikbal was third with 25,135 votes.
BJP spokesperson Jawahar Yadav said Hussain’s addition would strengthen the party and increase its reach among people of Mewat. “Mewat, Palwal, and Sirsa were the three places where BJP did not have a single MLA in the last Vidhan Sabha elections. This time, we think, we will open our account in all three,” he said.
He added that joining the party would also benefit Hussain’s prospects.INLD leaders, meanwhile, attributed Hussain’s departure as a routine political development and denied the party would be affected hugely due to the desertion. “All politicians try to make adjustments as elections start approaching. These calculations are made keeping in mind the ticket distribution, and are intrinsic to the nature of politics. People keep switching back and forth, and party prospects are not dependent on one person,” senior INLD leader and former deputy speaker Gopichand Gehlot said.
He added that Hussain had been winning elections while he was with the INLD, and said the party will continue to improve its prospects in the Mewat region.