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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 31, July 18, 2009

2009 Lok Sabha Elections in Haryana: An Analysis

Saturday 18 July 2009, by Kushal Pal, Ranbir Singh

The fact that Congress was able to win nine out of 10 seats in Haryana is bound to give an erroneous impression that it received an overwhelming mandate. But the fact of the matter is that there was a marginal decline of 0.67 per cent in the support for the Congress-I as its poll percentage was reduced from 42.13 to 41.46. On the other hand, the INLD failed to win any seat despite its alliance with the BJP. Its poll percentage was also reduced from 22.43 to 15.68, a negative swing of about seven per cent. However, we have to keep in view the fact that it contested only five instead of ten seats in the present election. Despite its alliance with the INLD, the BJP too failed to retain its only seat of Krishan Singh Sangwan from Sonipat that it had won in the 2004 election. Here, it may be pertinent to mention that the vote share of the BJP too has gone down from 17.21 to 12.09 per cent—a negative swing of 5.12 per cent. But here we must keep in view the fact that the BJP too contested only five out of ten seats in this election.

If we combine the votes of the INLD and BJP, it was 39.64 per cent in 2004 but has come down to 27.74 per cent in 2009 which means a loss of 11.9 per cent. This loss has to be ascribed to two factors. Firstly, it was the persistence of the memory of the brazen style of the government of O.P. Chautala from 2000 to 2005 that adversely affected the performance of the INLD-BJP alliance. Secondly, the alliance, which was thrust by the central leadership of the BJP, was not palatable to its rank-and-file. Whereas the INLD was able to transfer its votes to the BJP, the BJP could not transfer its votes to the INLD. The BSP was, however, able to increase its vote share three times from 4.98 in 2004 to 15.73 per cent this time and to acquire the second position after the Congress and pushed the INLD and the BJP to the third and fourth positions, respectively. Its success was on account of its social engineering which not only enabled it to get enhanced share of the Scheduled Caste votes but also of other castes such as Rors in Karnal, Meos in Gurgaon, Rajputs in Bhiwani, Sainis in Kurukshetra, Brahmins in Rohtak and Banias in Hisar by fielding candidates of those castes. The Haryana Janhit Congress formed by the former Chief Minister of Haryana, Bhajan Lal, secured 9.89 per cent votes in its maiden attempt by fielding Ahir candidates in Mahendergarh and Gurgaon, Punjabi candidates in Faridabad, Karnal and Kurukshetra and a Balmiki candidate in Ambala.

Therefore, the resounding success of the Congress has to be ascribed to the consolidation of the Congress votes despite the alleged sabotage from within in Gurgaon, Mohindergarh, Bhiwani, Hisar and Kurukshetra constituencies on the one hand, and fragmentation of the anti-Congress votes among the INLD, BJP, BSP and HJC on the other. This is what enabled the Congress to win 90 per cent seats on a vote share of just 41 per cent. But at the same time the credit for it has to be given mainly to the performance of the Congress Government in the State in terms of both development and style of governance.

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As a matter of fact, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was able to convert this election into a plebiscite between him and O.P. Chautala. Since people had not forgotten the Chautala regime, most of them decided to vote for the Congress rather than the INLD-BJP alliance. Secondly, he was able to make a strong dent in the Jat support base of the INLD by writing off the arrears of the electricity bills and by ensuring remuneratory prices of wheat, rice and sugarcane to the peasantry. Another factor that helped Hooda in this context was the call of Mayawati in a public rally at Karnal on March 2, 2008 to oust the Jats from power in the State. This is what consolidated Jat support in favour of the Congress in most constituencies of the State. Besides, Hooda was able to retain considerable support among the non-Jats despite the fact that his government was projected by the HJC and BSP as a pro-Jat government because he was perceived to be a more liberal and gentle Jat than O.P. Chautala.

It was the Hooda factor that enabled even the controversial candidates of the Congress-I like Avtar Singh Bhadana, a sitting MP, and Seilja, the Union Minister of State for Urban Development, to win from Faridabad and Ambala despite vehement opposition from their own party MLAs in their constituencies. Even sabotage from within the party could not defeat them. The solitary defeat of the Congress-I in Hisar was, however, due to Bhajan Lal’s own image and the polarisation of non-Jat votes in his favour on the one hand and the division of Jat votes between the candidates of the INLD and Congress on the other. Moreover, the INLD candidate, Sampat Singh, the former Finance Minister of Haryana, had a cleaner image than the Congress-I candidate, Jai Parkash, the founder of the notorious Green Brigade, a former Union Minister of State and sitting MP from Hisar. Besides, the delimitation of the constituency which led to the inclusion of Adampur and Hansi, strongholds of Bhajan Lal in it, and the exclusion of Kalayat and Narwana, also adversely affected the prospects of the Congress in this constituency.

The above discussion makes it abundantly clear that the State level factors played a far more important role than the national level issues in the resounding success of the Congress-I and almost complete rout of the non-Congress parties despite the fact that Haryana is located at the threshold of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. However, national issues like the need for political stability did influence the urban voters to some extent. This is evident from the fact that the Congress-I candidates fared far better than the candidates of the Opposition parties in almost all the urban Assembly segments..

The NREGS did not make much difference in the rural segments despite the fact that the minimum wages in Haryana, Rs 148 per day, are the highest in the country because the agricultural and non-agricultural daily wagers get more than Rs 200 per day due to the fact that the labour is in short supply in the State and the deficit is made up by the migrant labourers from Bihar and other States. But the waiving off of farm loans by the Centre did influence the farmers in the rural sector and make them vote for the Congress in larger numbers.

Ranbir Singh is a retired Professor of Political Science, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra and presently a Consultant, HIRD, Nilokheri.

Kushal Pal is the Head, Department of Political Science, Dyal Singh College, Karnal and Co-ordinator, Haryana, National Election Studies (NES-2009).

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