Regional parties may split BJP votes in Haryana assembly polls
The deadline for filing nominations for the October 21 assembly elections in Haryana ended on Friday, and 451 candidates across 10 main parties, including about 1,120 independents, have filed nominations for the 90 seats on offer.
Although most experts and analysts expect the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the state to retain power, they also point to the presence of spoilers and vote-splitters who could throw up surprises in some constituencies. The counting of votes will take place on October 24.
The elections were announced on September 21, giving the shortest ever campaign window to political parties in Haryana.
In the fray are the BJP, led by CM Manohar Lal Khattar, the Congress, the Indian National Lok Dal, new entrant Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Loktantra Suraksha Party (LSP) and the Swaraj India Party (SIP).
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Analysts say that while the Congress and the INLD are struggling to get their acts together, it is the presence of the JJP, LSP, AAP, SIP, and BSP, a veritable cornucopia of initials, that has made the context interesting, with some deep-pocketed candidates from these parties having the potential to at least queer the pitch for strong candidates by eating into their vote bank.
According to political analyst Ramji Lal, some smaller parties can’t be ignored as they are plugged into local caste- and community-networks.
In the Lok Sabha polls in the state, the BJP won all 10 seats. It had a vote share of 58%, while Congress won 28.45% of the vote and the INLD, a mere 1.90%.
In the 2014 assembly elections, the BJP won 47 seats with a vote share of 33.2% and the Congress 15 with 20.6%.
Some of the local parties have also sought to forge alliances. For instance, the LSP of rebel BJP leader Raj Kumar Saini has entered into an alliance with Rashtarwadi Janlok Party and INLD has joined hands with its old ally Shiromani Akali Dal.
The parties are also eyeing specific caste- and community-bases.
The LSP is targeting the OBC vote. A critic of the demand for a Jat quota, Saini formed LSP after violent protests erupted in demand for reservations for the dominant agrarian community (in jobs and educational institutions) in 2016. With an eye on OBC votes in Jat dominated areas Saini has picked candidates from backward classes; his party is contesting 80 of the seats. In the Lok Sabha election, the LSP-BSP alliance did not win any seat, although its candidates came third in six seats.
INLD and its offshoot JJP failed to impress the voters in Lok Sabha elections and their vote share remained below 2%, but analysts say the Jat influence in around 30 seats in the state’s heartland could be diluted because of the fragmentation of the community’s vote across these two parties.
The BSP will eye its traditional vote base, Dalits, although it has typically won just around 5% of the popular vote in the state where Dalits account for around a fifth of the electorate.