New Delhi: A meeting between Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati and two senior Congress leaders from Haryana – former chief minister and newly-appointed legislature party leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda and state unit president Kumari Selja – in Lucknow on Sunday evening has led to speculation about the possibility of both parties forming an alliance for the upcoming assembly elections in Haryana.
Alliance or grand alliance?
With no official word yet, it is still uncertain what shape the alliance would take and if other parties would be roped in to form a grand alliance or a ‘mahagathbandhan’ against the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in the state.
However, political circles are abuzz with the development since it has the potential to pose a serious challenge to the BJP as it seeks to regain power in the state. The party had formed its first government in Haryana in 2014 and followed it up by winning all ten Lok Sabha seats this year.
After setting house in order, Congress tries for more
For the Congress, the move is a serious attempt to dent BJP’s prospects. The grand-old party has itself been embroiled in internal squabbles over the past five years as former state unit president Ashok Tanwar and Hooda did not see eye to eye. In fact, there had been physical fights between their supporters in the past which even led to registration of police cases.
Recently, Hooda had even declared himself as the chief ministerial candidate and threatened to leave the party with his supporters if Tanwar was not removed from the post. The Congress finally relented and replaced Tanwar with Selja. It also made Hooda the election campaign head and gave him the post of CLP leader. He took the slot by replacing former Kiran Chaudhary.
The BSP has also not been able to convert the support it enjoys in certain pockets into seats of late. Though in August it announced an alliance with Jannayak Janata Party – a breakaway faction of Indian National Lok Dal that was floated by former CM Om Prakash Chautala’s elder son Ajay Chautala and grandson and former MLA Dushyant Chautala – the two parties later decided to contest on their own as they could not reach an adjustment over seat sharing.
The newly-formed JJP had during the Lok Sabha polls fought as an alliance partner of Aam Aadmi Party in Haryana.
Alliance can muster numbers to pose serious challenge to BJP
So, for both the Congress and the BSP, an alliance in the state offers an opportunity to pose a serious challenge to the Khattar government which has entered the fray with ‘abki baar 75 paar’ (this time we will cross 75 seats) slogan as it seeks to again wrest control of the 90-member house.
The BJP is hopeful of a good showing on primarily two counts – that the opposition is divided and there is unrest within the parties, and secondly, it believes that nationalism, with the added support of developments around Article 370 and Jammu and Kashmir, would once again enable it to strike a chord with the masses in the state.
J&K, an emotional issue in Haryana
In Haryana, the issue of J&K remains a very emotional one since a large number of people serve in the armed forces and have also been deployed in the region. This is one of the reasons why AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and Haryana Congress leader Hooda were quick to support the abrogation of some provisions of Article 370 in the state.
During his speech in Rohtak yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too raised the issue of Kashmir as he knows how it rings with the citizens. A couple of days ago, the Mahila Congress president Sumitra Chouhan also resigned stating that she did not agree with the party’s stand on special status of Jammu and Kashmir and triple talaq. She then joined the BJP.
Will Jats and Dalits come together?
The hope for the Congress and BSP now clearly lies in getting their core voters together. Hooda is a Jat leader and BSP has a strong reach among the Scheduled Caste voters. Together both these communities comprise nearly 48% of the state’s electorate – with Jats constituting around 27% and SCs 21%.
In 2014, when BJP won 47 seats, it received 33.2 per cent of the votes, followed by INLD at 19 seats and 24.1 % vote share and Congress with 15 seat and 20.4% votes. However, in the Lok Sabha elections BJP’s vote share went up to 58 per cent. The reason was that by now INLD had split and many of its MLAs had crossed over and joined the BJP.
Jats gravitated towards BJP out of compulsion
Overall though, as far as Jats are concerned, it is believed that they do not really consider BJP their party. In 2014, BJP fielded 25 Jat candidates of whom only 9 won. To woo the community the party made some of them ministers and also made Subhash Barala from the community its state unit president.
The Congress is now hoping that a large number of Jats would drift to it since following a split neither INLD nor JJP can fulfil their political aspirations. It is to be noted that Khattar happens to be the first non-Jat CM the state has had since Bhajan Lal, who last served till May 1996.
Some promise, some concerns
With many seeing him as a representative of non-Jats, the Dalit-Jat combine that Congress and BSP are eyeing holds some promise. The only major hitch is that this social engineering project may not work exactly as the Dalit-Brahmin combine did for Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh in 2007. The reason being that in Haryana it is the Jats who are involved in most cases of repression involving the Dalits.
Meanwhile, Haryana in-charge of the Congress Ghulam Nabi Azad said an alliance with BSP was unlikely considering it had allied with the SP and not Congress during the Lok Sabha elections. But the way Selja and Hooda have gone ahead and met Mayawati shows that they had the nod of the party high command for the meeting.