Can Haryana BJP overcome odds to emerge winner in 2024 poll?

Organized with an eye on 2024 poll, Jan Samvad programmes in Haryana have not gone the way BJP would have wished. Confronted with sharp queries from public, CM Khattar lost his cool at least at three places in Sirsa district during these events, reports  Jag Mohan Thaken

The increased political activity in the state of Haryana is a clear indicator to the fact that all parties are gearing up for the upcoming 2024 electoral battleground.

After securing impressive victories in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, the Congress has now started flexing its muscle in Haryana. Former Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda is trying hard to energize the Congress through ‘Hath se Hath Jodo’ programmes. But the infighting in the party may hamper Congress’ chances of securing a decisive win in the state.

Aam Aadmi Party, which has also thrown its hat in the ring, does not seem to gather much moss. It may cut into some anti-Congress city-based votes, but will get no remarkable support in the rural areas as the result of recently held Adampur by-election has amply demonstrated. Despite its candidate being a Jat, the party could not save the security deposit as out of the total 131,523 votes polled, AAP only managed to secure 3,420 votes.

The ruling BJP has been in election mode since long. While BJP state president Om Prakash Dhankhar is organizing district-wise meetings of workers, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is also trying to woo the public through his ‘Jan Samwad’ (public dialogue) programmes being organized with the help of government machinery. Only time will tell what will be the impact of these programmes on the electoral fortunes of the BJP.

However, these Jan Samvad programmes have not gone the way the saffron party would have wished. Faced with some sharp questions raised by the public, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar reportedly lost his cool at least at three places in Sirsa district during these Jan Samvad programmes. The Chief Minister was even gheraoed by hundreds of angry villagers during the Jan Samvad programme at Dongra Ahir, an Ahir (Yadav) dominated village of Narnaul district. The siege of the place where the Chief Minister was lodged vividly reflects the widespread public anger directed towards the BJP and its government

BJP’s journey in Haryana

The BJP had for the first time ascended to the position of Chief Minister in 2014 in the state which came into being in 1966.  In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, due to decline in Congress vote bank owing to its image smeared by corruption charges and the Modi wave sweeping most parts of the country, the BJP won seven of the total 10 seats in the state. Indian National Lok Dal Party won two seats of Sirsa and Hisar under the leadership of former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala. The Congress won the only one seat of Rohtak, where Dipendra Hooda, son of former Chief Minister Bhupendra Singh Hooda, got elected.

In the state assembly election held after a gap of only six months after the Lok Sabha poll, the BJP got only 47 seats out of 90, but despite a simple majority, it completed the full five-year term due to backing of the saffron party at the center.  

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the continuing poor condition of the Congress and the strong Ram Mandir wave resulted in the BJP winning all the 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state, due to which over enthused Chief Minister Khattar set a target of above 75 seats out of 90 in the Legislative Assembly elections that were to be held six months later. But the diminished returns in the assembly election made him eat a humble pie and results even stunned the BJP high command.

The BJP did not even get a simple majority with the party tally reduced to only 40 out of the total 90 seats. Except the Chief Minister and one other minister, all the ministers in the state cabinet were made to bite the dust by the people.

But the BJP got a reprieve when the Jan Nayak Janata Party (JJP), which was cursing the BJP day and night on every stage during the whole election period, and fetched votes from the people in the name of defeating the BJP, cashed in on the opportunity to share power by extending support of its 10 MLAs to BJP. As a result, the BJP-JJP alliance government was formed in Haryana.

Though the opposition alleged it was not a government having peoples’ mandate, but an unethical alliance to relish fruits of power. Despite a poor mandate, BJP retained power. But the one-year long farmers’ movement of 2020-21 has turned the common people against the BJP-JJP, and the BJP-JJP alliance seems to be losing ground in Haryana. A clear indication of this is reflected in the Chief Minister facing a hostile public during Jan Samvad Programmes.

The ongoing treatment of women wrestlers, who have been demanding the arrest of WFI president and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for sexually harassing women sportspersons, by the BJP-led central government, is further weakening the position of the BJP in Haryana. If the situation does not change, BJP may suffer its consequences in the next Lok Sabha elections as well.  

What are BJP plans?

Political experts opine that the BJP, mindful of its slim chances in the Legislative Assembly, will like to hold election of Haryana Legislative Assembly six months earlier than the scheduled time along with the Lok Sabha elections, so that they can take advantage of the “strong Modi vs weak Rahul” narrative and also succeed in obfuscating the many failures of the state government by raising national security, Ram Mandir and Bajrang Bali issues to daze the public.    

Political observers also believe that the BJP may even float the name of a Jat leader as the Chief Minister during 2024 election to woo the farmers, and especially the Jat community, who are enraged with the role of the Khattar government in the state during the farmers’ agitation and the on-going wrestlers’ protest.  

The BJP knows well that at the time of farmers’ agitation, the farmers expected that its alliance partner, JJP would withdraw support to the BJP to bring down the government, but just the opposite happened. However the JJP continued its support to the BJP government which irked the public multifold.  So, the BJP hopes that the public ire will be directed more at the JJP and would affect the BJP less.

Though the leaders of JJP are young, they also are seasoned players of politics. While Dushyant Chautala, who is the deputy chief minister from JJP quota, is seen standing shoulder to shoulder with the government, but he has given free hand to JJP national general secretary and his younger brother Digvijay Chautala to demonstrate to people about the JJP’s solidarity with farmers from time to time. Digvijay keeps claiming to be a well-wisher of farmers’ community, so that the farmers’ anger towards the JJP can dissipate.

Digvijay keeps repeating that JJP is making every effort to fulfill the promises made to the people and says the people gave them only 10 seats out of 90. The JJP however managed to share the power, but their hands are tied in the alliance due to not having a complete hold on the government.

In a program in Bhiwani district, Digvijay Chautala, to entice the voters once again, clearly said, “The alliance government does not extend much freedom to JJP to take decisions as per our will, which was there under the rule of Chaudhary Devi Lal or Chaudhary Om Prakash Chautala ji. Because we have only 10 seats out of 90, our power share is only 20 percent. If you want to enjoy full power in the true sense, then you will have to put at least 46 seats in Dushyant’s bag and make him the Chief Minister of Haryana.”

Digvijay Chautala wants to reassure the people with his statement that the JJP wants to form its own independent government. To achieve this end, the party will contest the election on its own and will ask the people to give one chance to form a full independent government.

Political experts believe that even if the BJP-JJP alliance splits and both the parties contest the elections separately, it will only be a friendly match by providing the voters a separate platform in the form of JJP to prevent the sections angry with the BJP from moving towards the Congress. When the time comes, both will come together and form a coalition government again, they opine.

That the JJP is hands in glove with BJP is also confirmed by the fact that the JJP will join hands with the BJP in the Rajasthan assembly elections to be held towards the end of this year. The party’s national president Ajay Chautala made this announcement on May 26 in Jaipur.

Chautala said that alliance talks with BJP are going on for Rajasthan, and added that after Haryana, the party will now contest elections in Rajasthan together with BJP.

“We will contest the elections in Rajasthan on those seats where the BJP is weak,” said Chautala.

Political analysts believe that the BJP will provide the platform of its ally, JJP to the Jats of Rajasthan to diffuse the anger that has been simmering among the Jats due to the farmers’ agitation and the removal of Satish Poonia from the BJP state president’s post.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Rajasthan, BJP joined hands with a strong Jat leader, Hanuman Beniwal and left Nagaur seat for him.

But now for some time, Beniwal has been daggers drawn with the BJP on certain issues like farmers’ and wrestlers’ agitation.

So, the BJP is working on a plan to utilize the services of another big-wig Jat clan — Chautala family — to take on Beniwal.

To what extent BJP will succeed in drawing Rajasthan Jat voters in its favor by changing horses midstream in 2023 assembly elections, will impact BJPs poll strategy  for Haryana elections 2024