Electing our Future

  • Abhishek Behl / FG
  • India
  • Sep 12, 2014



The announcement of 43 party candidates by the BJP has heated up the political air and upped the ante in Haryana, with just about a month to go before the Assembly polls. The list also belies the strong claims made by BJP that it would not give the mandate to relatives of senior party leaders and MPs, many of whom have recently switched sides from the Congress. The denial of the Party ticket to reportedly strong contenders in many seats is also likely to cause trouble for the saffron party, particularly in Gurgaon and Badshahpur. In Gurgaon, the BJP has decided to field Umesh Agarwal, who also contested the election the last time and was defeated by independent Sukhbir Kataria. Agarwal has managed to pip GL Sharma, close confidante of Gurgaon MP and MoS Defence Rao Inderjit Singh for the Party ticket – a move that has surprised many in the City. Sharma was reportedly said to be leading in a majority of the internal and external surveys carried out by BJP and independent agencies, and was confident of getting the mandate. In neighbouring Badshahpur, the Party has given the ticket to senior leader Narbir Singh, which seems a move to mollify him as he had been denied a ticket in the Parliamentary polls. HIs candidature, however, has led to the nixing of the claims of Mukesh Sharma, who had contested the polls the last time, and is said to have ‘invested’ heavily in promoting himself and the Party in this run up to the elections. Sharma is also said to be close to senior BJP leaders in the central leadership, including Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh. The distribution of tickets reportedly bears a strong stamp of the BJP State chief Rambilas Sharma, who managed to get the Party’s nod for many of his close aides. In comparison, the claims of a number of Rao Inderjit supporters were denied – for example, in Badshahpur, where Gurgaon Mayor Vimal Yadav and Rao Abhay Singh were strong contenders for the ticket. However, the Gurgaon MP has managed to secure the ticket for his daughter Arti Rao, from Rewari – she will challenge senior Ahir leader Captain Ajay Yadav (Congress). While this has not been officially announced, her name was taken by the BJP leader JP Nadda during the press conference after the BJP Parliamentary Board Meeting. The Gurgaon MP has also managed to get tickets for some of his other supporters - like Banwari Lal for Bawal, Bimla Chaudhary for Pataudi and Om Prakash Yadav for Narnaul. A few more supporters might also find their names in upcoming the lists of Mewat district. However, the biggest setback to Rao supporters has been in Gurgaon and Badshahpur, two prestigious constituencies that voted in large numbers for Rao and the BJP during the Lok Sabha polls. Kamal Yadav, who has been a longtime Party activist and had staked a claim for the ticket, was denied the mandate despite initially getting a go ahead from a senior leader to open his offices and plaster his posters across Badshahpur. Some of the Party activists say that the ‘surveys’ conducted by the Party, to select candidates, seem to have been junked, and the tickets have been distributed on the whims and fancies of the Party high command. 

Although it would be premature to say whether there would be rebellion in the ranks of the BJP, but there are indications that all is not well in the rank and file. There is strong dissatisfaction in the Mukesh Sharma camp, and sources indicate that he might decide to fight the elections as an independent. Another candidate for the BJP ticket, Lakhpat Kataria, who also ‘invested’ considerably to promote his image and name among the people, and made considerable efforts for the Party in the Lok Sabha elections, is likely to stand as an independent from the Badshahpur Vidhan Sabha seat. Though Kataria tried his best to secure a ticket, his reported lack of political connections at the top, and weak networking, proved to be a handicap. He is likely to pose some challenge to the Party in the ensuing polls. A very large section of the Brahmin community, in both Gurgaon and Badshahpur, is also feeling dejected, as none of their candidates has been endorsed. BJP Chief Rambilas Sharma (a Brahmin), who lives in the City, is considered to be an outsider, as he hails from Mahendragarh and has got a ticket from there. The Brahmins are now rethinking their strategy and strongly want to put up either independents or canvass for Brahmin candidates of other parties, to show their might in both the constituencies. A prominent Brahmin leader in Gurgaon says that, despite Brahmins being large in number and the BJP having good candidates from this community, the Party failed to select them. He says that this will cost the Party dearly in the coming polls. It is being speculated that one of the claimants - either Trilok Sharma, Mukesh Sharma, GL Sharma or Kulbhushan Bhardwaj - could be supported by the community in the polls. Many of the political workers allege that the BJP, which had strongly asserted that tickets would not be given to relatives of MPs and other senior leaders, has backtracked and has also rewarded recent entrants from the Congress – like Ch, Virendra Singh. 

The first list of 43 candidates for the 90-member Assembly was declared after a long meeting chaired by Party chief Amit Shah, which was reportedly attended by PM Modi and senior BJP leaders. The Party has given tickets to all the sitting MLAs, seven women and 11 youth leaders. Former Congress leader Ch. Birender Singh's wife, Prem Lata, has been given the ticket from Uchana. Singh had lost to INLD President Om Prakash Chautala in the last election from there. Given the high profile nature of this seat, it is being speculated that Singh might get an elevated status if he manages to win this seat and get a couple of seats for the Party from his area. The BJP has also been liberal in giving tickets to new entrants such as Shamsher Kharkhara - who has been chosen from Meham and Krishan Panwar - from Israna; they were earlier in the INLD. Likewise, Chhatarpal Singh and Sunita Setia, who left the Congress, have been given tickets from Hansi and Sirsa respectively. The Party has also given tickets to Anil Vij from Ambala Cantt., Kavita Jain from Sonepat and Ghanshyam Saraf from Bhiwani. BJP State chief Rambilas Sharma has got the ticket from Mahendragarh, where he will take on Rao Dan Singh of the Congress. Sharma has also managed to get the Party ticket for his relative, Moolchand Sharma, from Ballabhgarh. BJP leader Om Prakash Dhankar, who has been a worker for a long time, has been given the ticket from Badli, although there is strong opposition to his candidature – he had lost the recent Parliamentary elections, at a time when almost every BJP candidate had won. Manohar Lal Khattar, another BJP leader who has close connections with the RSS, has been nominated from Karnal. BJP Chief Ministerial candidate Captain Abhimanyu has been nominated from Narnaund. Political analysts opine that BJP has tired to play it safe. After announcing the names of the candidates, BJP leader JP Nadda had said, "We have tried to represent all sections in the first list and have given seven tickets to women and 11 to youth. The next CEC meeting will be held soon after the declaration of the polls".

Political analysts opine that the BJP, having taken the decision to fight the election alone, would need to put in a lot of effort, and also depend on some luck, to outwit the wily Hooda of the Congress, the Jaat leader Om Prakash Chautala of the INLD, and a somewhat overconfident Kuldip Bishnoi of the Haryana Janhit Congress.  The Congress, which faced a rout in the Lok Sabha polls across the country, has launched a high profile media campaign led by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is a past master in poll arithmetic. He would be a difficult opponent to dislodge. His publicity blitzkrieg has also forced the opposition to sit up and take notice. The Hooda government spend on the election themed campaign is visible on national, regional and local channels, as well as newspapers. The Haryana information department has issued advertisements on digital media as well. In response, the INLD has launched a TV campaign to highlight the wrongs committed by the Hooda government - the ‘Golibaaz Gulabi Gang Sarkar’ campaign highlights the corruption and land scams in the State during Congress rule. The BJP is also attacking the government, but it has still to come out with a concerted campaign, both through the media and on the ground. The BJP has also been handicapped by the fact that it has not been able to project a candidate as the Chief Minister. Sources say that the Party does not want infighting before the election, as there a number of leaders - including Krishanpal Gurjar, Rao Inderjit Singh, Ch. Virender Singh, Captain Abhimanyu, and Rambilas Sharma - who have staked claim for the top post in the State. Haryana Janhit Congress, led by Kuldip Bishnoi, is also trying to corner the Congress, but it seems to have been weakened after its alliance with the BJP went kaput, and Bishnoi was almost forced to ally with the Haryana Jan Chetna Party - which has been floated by erstwhile Hooda ally Venod Sharma. 

An interesting development is the sudden intense discussion on the prospect of Union Minister Sushma Swaraj being considered as the Party's Chief Ministerial candidate. Some BJP leaders, including legislators, have been inclined towards Swaraj, and have even given public statements calling for her candidature. BJP MLA Anil Vij opines that the projection of Swaraj could be a positive step for the Party, as she is a popular leader of the Party in the State. Swaraj had become the youngest cabinet minister in Haryana in 1977, when she was inducted in the Devi Lal government. She belongs to the Palwal town of Haryana. She was also the first woman Chief Minister of Delhi. The sudden cropping up of Swaraj's name has unnerved some of the leaders, who claim that it is unlikely that the Party will project a particular name for the top post as it could lead to factionalism. Political analysts in Haryana believe that the ensuing election is going to be fought bitterly, with the Congress, INLD and HJC trying to protect their home turfs (while still countering each other) against the BJP juggernaut – this time led more by Amit Shah. However, the saffron wave in the country has subsided a bit in the country - though the persona of Modi and his style of functioning is still strong. It would be a miracle if the BJP were able to replicate the victory of the Lok Sabha in the Assembly elections in the State. The Party has tried to select a ‘balanced’ set of candidates, but how it manages the anticipated rebellions within the ranks would be crucial to its success in Haryana. The Party is up against very astute ‘opposition’ leaders, and it will take a very special effort to (single-handedly) break the stranglehold of the Congress/INLD in the realpolitik of Haryana.





Gurgaon’s future is in many ways predicated on the upcoming Assembly (State) Elections. The current (Congress) dispensation is only going to keep milking this city’s real estate and aiding builders in further consolidating their raj – though many of them are probably now beyond even State control. If the Congress returns, there is no reason to expect any change in Gurgaon’s administration – it will remain pathetic. The City has never mattered to them politically. Their plan seems to be to somehow get some other NCR areas (Jhajjar, Rohtak, Sonipat) to ‘replace’ Gurgaon. A hung assembly, and it does seem quite possible now, would be as bad. AAP is out of the fray. Both the INLD (Chautala) and the BJP are hoping to win outright, but the caste arithmetic (and it will matter now) seems to not favour this outcome. The break up of the BJP with the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC- Bishnoi) may cost it dear. A cobbled post-election BJP-INLD or BJP-HJC combo would not be able to bring the desired stability and change – more time and effort being probably spent on managing the internal issues or personal fortunes. The Haryana and other upcoming assembly elections are going to test the BJP’s strength as a Party, the strength of its Cabinet members, and that of MLA aspirants. There will be little of Modi at hand. The issues for the electorate are clearly very different from what they voted for in the Lok Sabha elections. Insufficient, transient and ineffective (and inexplicable!) action on food prices will definitely impact the BJP. And the excuse cannot be about this issue needing a local/State solution – for even BJP-ruled States are faring no better on food prices. Emotive voting has already taken place this year, and been given to Modi. The harsh daily realities will be the flavour now. Local BJP ‘leaders’ and CM aspirants in the States going to the polls – including Haryana - will perhaps stand exposed in this harsh light. They have basked in Modi’s glory and been protected by his shadow. They have perhaps developed hubris – which is why they may still lose the race despite having got a head start. What should have been a cakewalk could turn into the tragedy of facing a loss within just a few months of a clean sweep. The MLA aspirants may soon realise, and have to bitterly accept, that the BJP sweep was actually a Modi wave. Even Gurgaon (and Badshahpur), despite having a BJP MP, may not be safe. The BJP Cabinet and Party should have already started the implementation of their proposed programs (across Ministries) in the BJP/NDA-ruled States; this would have helped them in the Assembly elections of other States. There also would have been more than just a Gujarat to talk of. 

If BJP is unable to win in Haryana and Maharashtra, it will be a telling loss. It will also mean that the Rajya Sabha vote, required for the approval of BJP ‘big bang’ initiatives and policies, would remain a challenge. Modi’s current strength, almost cockiness, derives from his historic win. Assembly losses will start to diminish this sheen within his first 6 months only.  Further, he and his inner circle are already making the Lutyen’s elite (the dynasts and their babas, the inner circle and the hangers-on) very nervous. Modi has ruffled many a socialite feather too – both by his silence (on matters they think he should have spoken out on) and his speeches (which have blatantly gone against accepted ‘tradition’). Or does all this mean that he is maybe doing the right things? And could a few Assembly losses provide some upsides for the PM, as he still has over 4 years to go? While the PM has rightly taken on a national and statesman’s role, the losses will force him to also focus on issues on the ground (like food prices). He may even use the 'opportunity' to rein in the strident Hindutva brigade.



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