State of parties: BJP banks on Modi to sail through in Haryana - Hindustan Times
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State of parties: BJP banks on Modi to sail through in Haryana

May 18, 2024 05:42 AM IST

Summer slugfest will set tone for assembly elections due by October. Despite organisational muscle and well-oiled cadre, state unit wrestles with anti-incumbency and accusation of disconnect from ground realities.

Battling anti-incumbency having been in power in Haryana since 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is again banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity to see it through as voting for all 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state will be held in the sixth phase on May 25.

Notwithstanding the claims of former chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Karnal, that the party will retain its 2019 score of 10/10, the party is pulling out all stops to ensure it manages at least its 2014 tally of seven seats. (ANI File)
Notwithstanding the claims of former chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Karnal, that the party will retain its 2019 score of 10/10, the party is pulling out all stops to ensure it manages at least its 2014 tally of seven seats. (ANI File)

Notwithstanding the claims of former chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Karnal, that the party will retain its 2019 score of 10/10, the party is pulling out all stops to ensure it manages at least its 2014 tally of seven seats. Despite steps to introduce transparency in governance and ensuring merit-based recruitment, the Khattar-led BJP government is criticised for its disconnect with ground realities, particularly after the farmer protests, the Agnipath scheme, alienation of Jats and anger among women wrestlers over delay in action against former Wrestling Federation of India chief and party MP Brij Bhushan Sharan, who faced sexual harassment charges.

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The summer slugfest will set the tone for the assembly elections due by October. The saffron party faces an uphill task in Haryana despite having strong organisational muscle and a well-oiled cadre.

Report card

Riding on the Modi wave after the Pulwama incident and subsequent Balakot air strikes in Pakistan, the BJP stunned its critics by winning all 10 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. The high point of this victory was the massive margins of BJP candidates. In eight seats, the victory margin ranged from 3 lakh to 6.5 lakh. From 34.84% vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP’s vote share jumped to 58 % in 2019. In 2009, the BJP could not open its account, while in 2004, it won only one of the 10 seats it contested. From an urban-centric party, the BJP has in the past decade spread its organisational base to rural pockets.

2019 LS elections

Vote share: 58%

seats won: 10/10

2014 LS elections

Vote share: 34.7%

Seats won: 7/10

2009 LS elections

Vote share: 12.01%

Seats won: Nil

2004 LS elections

Vote share: 17.21%

Seats won: 1/10

1999 LS elections

Vote share: 29.21%

Seats won: 4/5

KEY STATE LEADERS

Nayab Singh Saini, 54

As Haryana chief minister and state BJP president, Nayab Singh Saini is spearheading the party’s Lok Sabha campaign. Saini, who belongs to the other backward classes (OBC), stepped into the shoes of his political mentor, Manohar Lal Khattar, in March barely six months before his second term as CM was to end in October. Saini won the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Kurukshetra by 3.83 lakh votes. He became an MLA for the first time in 2014 and was inducted as a minister in the then Khattar government in 2016. The Lok Sabha election is his first political challenge in a state divided on caste lines.

Manohar Lal Khattar, 70

The former chief minister is the key strategist of the BJP in Haryana and known for his clean image. He was catapulted to the post of CM in October 2014 as he was reportedly in the good books of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a dramatic turn of events in mid-March, his innings as CM came to an abrupt halt when the central BJP leadership asked him to step down and fielded him from Karnal for the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP tried to blunt the anti-incumbency factor that it faces in the state with Khattar at the helm. The BJP’s Lok Sabha poll performance in Haryana will determine Khattar’s political future.

Subhash Barala, 57

The Rajya Sabha member is a loyalist of former CM Khattar. After facing defeat in the 2019 assembly elections from Tohana in Fatehabad district, Khattar ensured Barala, a low-profile Jat leader, was rehabilitated. He was the state BJP chief from December 2014 to July 2020. As a key poll strategist of the party in Haryana, he is responsible for ensuring the campaign runs smoothly.

WHERE THE PARTY STANDS

What works

The BJP is depending on the Modi magic this time, again. Its hopes rest on those who benefited from welfare schemes of the central and state governments and steps being taken to bring about transparency in governance and recruitment. The party has a strong organisational base, committed cadre and resources. It sees hope amid reports of infighting in the rival Congress camp.

What doesn’t

Despite anti-incumbency stemming from public disconnect, the BJP’s course correction in the state appears to be too little too late. Rural voters are restive with most e-governance initiatives and the push for the Parivar Pehchan Patra (PPP), Khattar’s flagship programme, being implemented despite opposition.

Up against

The anti-incumbency of 10 years in power in the state and at the Centre is the biggest challenge the BJP is facing. Floating voters are disillusioned. Farmers have been on protest mode, targeting their ire at the BJP.

What next

The BJP’s general election performance would set the tone for the assembly elections due in October. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won all 10 seats with huge margins in May, but its march was halted in October that year when the party managed to win 41 seats and could not clear the half-way mark in the 90-member assembly.

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