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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 49, November 29, 2014

2014 Assembly Elections in Haryana: A Paradigm Shift in State Politics

Monday 1 December 2014

by Ranbir Singh

The 2014 Assembly elections in Haryana have brought about a paradigm shift in the politics of the State. The BJP, which had won only four seats in a House of 90 in the 2005 elections, has been able to enhance its strength to 47 on the basis of a 24.16 per cent increase in its vote-share.

This unprecedented success of the party has to be ascribed to the following factors. Firstly, the formation of the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre was bound to impact Haryana which borders the National Capital of Delhi.1 Secondly, it appears that the Modi factor, which had made a significant impact on the parliamentary elections, continues to persist to some extent.2 Thirdly, the BJP seems to have benefited from the support extended to it by the Dera Sacha Sauda which has a significant influence throughout the State.3 Fourthly, the success of the party may be attributed to the desire for change in a large segment of the electorate which had witnessed the O.P. Chautala-led INLD rule from 1999 to 2005 and the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress regime from 2005 to 2014. They wanted something different and the BJP was able to project itself as such.4 Lastly and most importantly, it was the polarisation of the non-Jats in favour of the BJP owing to the continuation of the Jat-headed governments from 1996 to 2014 and they wanted a government headed by a non-Jat.5

On the other hand, the Congress has been hit hard. Its strength has been reduced from 40 to 15, whereas its vote-share has been reduced by 14.48 per cent. This decline in the electoral fortunes of the party has to be ascribed to the following factors. Firstly, the Hooda-led Congress Govern-ment had to face charges of discrimination in development of various sub-regions and recruitment for government jobs in them. It was being alleged that Central Haryana, comprising Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonipat districts, was grabbing all the benefits, and Southern Haryana, consisting of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal, Mewat, Mahender-garh, Rewari and Bhiwani districts, Northern Haryana, consisting of Panchkula, Ambala, Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat and Kaithal districts, and Western Haryana, comprising Hisar, Jind, Fatehabad and Sirsa districts, had been neglected by this government.6 Secondly, factionalism in the party between the Hooda and anti-Hooda camps leading to the exit of Rao Inderjeet Singh, the most popular Ahir leader, and Birender Singh, grandson of the legendary Jat leader, Chhotu Ram, also made a negative impact on the performance of the Congress.7 Thirdly, its politics of populism—enhancing the age of retirement of government employees from 58 to 60, increase in pension of the aged from Rs 500 to Rs 1000 and formation of the Haryana Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandak Committee—failed to make any impact.8 Lastly, the wrong distribution of tickets, including giving tickets to those disqualified by the High Court for defection and those facing charges of accepting money in land deals, also took its toll.9

The strength of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has dwindled from 31 to 19 despite the fact that its vote-share had been reduced by a mere 1.69 per cent. The party had been adversely affected by the absence of its supremo, O.P. Chautala, and his elder son, Ajay Singh, who had been sentenced to an imprisonment of ten years in the JBT teacher recruitment scam. This left the party almost leaderless. His younger son, Abhay Singh, did not have that acceptability. His grandson, Dushyant Chautala, who had been elected from Hisar in the 2014 parlia-mentary elections, too could not fill up that void. Even the campaigning by O.P. Chautala during his bail period, which culminated in its cancellation, could make little difference in this context.10 Lastly, the party was also affected by the division of Jat votes between the INLD and Congress, which had given reservations to the Jats as OBCs even at the cost of annoying other OBCs such as Ahirs, Gujjars, Rors and Sainis.11

 The Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) has been marginalised and its strength has been reduced from six to two as a result of losing 3.8 per cent votes. This happened because the party had ceased to be a credible alternative to the Congress and INLD after its decision to walk out of its coalition with the BJP that it had formed on the eve of the 2011 by-election to the Lok Sabha from Hisar which had been won by its supremo, Kuldeep Bishnoi.12 As a matter of fact, his defeat in the 2014 elections due to his political immaturity had made a very adverse impact on the party.13

The position of the BSP remains unchanged. It continues to have one seat despite a loss of 2.33 per cent in its vote-share. It is pertinent to mention that the party had never been important in Haryana except in the 2009 parliamentary elections when it had secured 15.73 per cent votes by projecting Mayawati as a prospective Prime Minister.14

The strength of the independents has declined from seven to five and their vote-share has decreased by three per cent. This small decrease in terms of seats and votes was perhaps on account of the fact that the independents had little chance in a highly competitive triangular contest between the BJP, INLD and Congress.15

Be that as it may, the 2014 Haryana Assembly elections can certainly be termed as elections with a difference. These are indeed a turning-point in State politics. However, one has to keep one’s fingers crossed regarding the shape of politics to come in the years ahead on account of a long history of social cleavages and opportunistic politics in this State punctuated by the paradox of economic development and cultural backwardness. 

Notes and References

1. The success of the Congress in the 1971 parliamentary elections had impacted the 1972 Haryana Assembly elections and the success of the Janata Party in the 1977 parliamentary elections had influenced the outcome of the 1977 Assembly elections. The success of the Congress in the 2005 parliamentary elections had affected the 2005 Haryana Assembly elections; the outcome of the 2009 parliamentary elections did not make much impact on the 2009 Haryana Assembly elections. But even in these the Congress was able to get 40 out of 90 seats.

2. Pradeep Sharma, “Modi Wave: non-Jat and urban voters prop up BJP to majority”, The Tribune, Chandigarh (October 20, 2014), p. 2.

3. Sushil Manav, “Dera factor plays its part in BJP win”, The Tribune, Chandigarh (October 20, 2014), p. 2.

4. The bulk of voters felt that both Chautala and Hooda governments had the same agenda. The only difference was that of style of governance. While Chautala’s was crude, that of Hooda was sophisticated.

5. Bansi Lal remained the Chief Minister from 1996 to 1999, O.P. Chautala from 1999 to 2005, and Bhupinder Singh Hooda from 2005 to 2014. Since all of them were Jats, their governments were perceived by the bulk of non-Jats as pro-Jat governments.

6. This charge was repeatedly made by the Congress dissidents like Rao Inderjeet Singh, Birender Singh and Kumar Sailja.

7. While exit of Rao Inderjeet Singh led to loss of support among the Ahirs, Birender Singh’s departure affected Jat support in Jind and Kaithal districts.

8. Vishal Joshi, “Move on separate gurudwara panel didn’t work for Congress”, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh (October 20, 2014), p. 2.

9. While the Congress candidates, Rao Narender Singh (Narnaul), Satpal Sangwan (Dadri), Vinod Bhayana (Hansi) and Dharam Singh Chhokar (Samalkha), had been disqualified by the High Court for defection, there were charges of demanding money for change in land use against Ram Kishan Fauji (Bawani Khera), Naresh Selwal (Uklana) and Jarnail Singh (Ratia).

10. These observations are based on my discussion with an important INLD leader who doesn’t want to disclose his identity.

11. For Jat support for the Congress in Central Haryana, refer to Sunit Dhawan, “Hooda loses State but retains Deswali citadel”, The Tribune, Chandigarh, October 20, 2014, p. 3.

12. Ranbir Singh,”The Hisar Bye-Elections: Myth and Reality”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XLVI, No. 46, November 12, 2011, pp 16-17.

13. It has been alleged that Kuldeep Bishnoi had told the voters that he seeks votes from all the communities except one. He also insisted on the office of the Chief Minister after his defeat in the 2000 parliamentary elections. This is what led to the breakdown of the BJP-HJC alliance.

14. Even in the 2009 elections, the BSP was able to get this high percentage, to some extent, due to the candidature of Zakir Hussain, a well-known Meo leader from Gurgaon, and Maratha Virender, a Ror leader from Karnal. Both of them had left the party after the elections. Zakir Hussain later on joined the INLD and Maratha went over to the BJP. However, he returned back to the BSP after failing to get the BJP ticket in the 2014 parliamentary elections.

15. The independent candidates, having bases of their own, have mainly benefited from the division of votes among various parties in multiple contests.

Prof Ranbir Singh is a former Dean, Social Sciences and Academic Affairs, Kurukshetra University.