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Haryana

Opposition in Haryana deeply bruised, but a confident BJP eyes an easy win

September 22, 2019 06:34 AM

COURTESY TOI SPET 22

Opposition in Haryana deeply bruised, but a confident BJP eyes an easy win
Joel.Joseph@timesgroup.com

What does it tell you about the opposition in Haryana when the only party openly challenging chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar to debates on unemployment and farm distress is an assembly polls debutant?

And what does it tell you about the ruling party, BJP, when the man who stepped into the CM’s office from the unknown five years ago — a Punjabi and commoner in a state dominated by dynasts and Jat politicians — is not only the poster boy of its re-election campaign but also being rebranded ‘Mano’ to play on its likeness to ‘NaMo’?


BJP’s confidence springs from its clean sweep of the state’s 10 Lok Sabha seats in the parliamentary elections earlier this year, increasing its vote share from 34% in 2014 to 58%, the vacancies in government jobs it has filled in the state, the spectrum of central schemes from Ujjwala to Ayushman Bharat, and the Modi factor. From 47 seats in the last election, when it came to power in Haryana for the first time, it’s now chasing Mission 75, the target set by Amit Shah.

The opposition has, meanwhile, imploded. The split in the Chautala family led to the INLD being decimated in the Lok Sabha election this year. The vote share of the regional powerhouse — the principal opposition party for the last five years as it finished ahead of Congress in the 2014 assembly polls — plummeted to 1.9% from nearly 25% in 2014. With almost no chance of a reconciliation with the breakaway Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), whose face is Om Prakash Chautala’s grandson Dushyant, INLD’s struggle is to remain relevant.

And Congress, which has been looking rudderless since the Lok Sabha drubbing, recently negotiated an uneasy truce in the warring state unit by elevating Kumari Selja to the state chief ’s post and making former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda its campaign face. The party has been spending more time on keeping its organisation together than challenging BJP on local issues, which will come into play much more than they did in the LS polls.

“The one and only thing which allows Khattar to stand confident is the total absence of a strong opposition. And this is precisely the reason why we have come up with our election slogan, ‘Nikkammi Sarkar, Vipaksh Bekaar,” says the psephologist, Yogendra Yadav, whose outfit Swaraj India is contesting the state polls for the first time. “The main opposition parties in the state are stunned after the LS loss, there is a loss of narrative,” he adds.

Of that, BJP has plenty. One of its main campaign points will be transparency in government jobs and the 69,000 appointments the government says it has made in the last five years, with 20,000 more in the process. The abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, meanwhile, will bolster its nationalist and strong leadership narrative.

Khattar himself has come a long way, from surviving the backlash he received during 2016 Jat quota agitation for poorly handling the crisis to leading the statewide Jan Ashirwad rally as BJP’s Haryana face. Analysts say the CM is comfortable in BJP now and BJP is comfortable with Khattar, who is only the fourth CM of Haryana not from the Jat community.

 

 

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