Lok Sabha elections 2019: Will split in Jat vote hurt the Congress in Haryana? - Hindustan Times
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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Will split in Jat vote hurt the Congress in Haryana?

ByAbhishek Jha
Mar 23, 2019 08:19 AM IST

The strategy of appointing a non-Jat leader is key to the BJP’s social engineering strategy in the state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recorded its best ever performance in Haryana in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It further consolidated its gains in the 2014 assembly elections, which were held a few months later. The BJP surprised a lot of people by appointing Manohar Lal Khattar, a non-Jat leader, as the chief minister of the state. According to various estimates, Jats account for more than one-fourth of the state’s total population and have significant clout in the state.

Supporters of All-India Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti seen during a sit-in protest demanding for reservation under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category in government jobs and educational institutions, at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi on December 21.(HT File Photo)
Supporters of All-India Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti seen during a sit-in protest demanding for reservation under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category in government jobs and educational institutions, at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi on December 21.(HT File Photo)

The strategy of appointing a non-Jat leader is key to the BJP’s social engineering strategy in the state. Post-poll survey data from the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)-Lokniti shows that the BJP actually lost Jat support in both the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections compared to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. These losses, however, were outweighed by the BJP’s gains among other communities. In other words, the BJP was able to build some sort of an anti-Jat coalition.

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See Chart 1: Theoretically, it is possible to counter the BJP’s electoral strategy. The BJP’s total vote share was just above the one-third mark. The Congress had a much higher level of vote share in the 2004 and 2009 elections. Interestingly, the way in which the Congress achieved these levels of aggregate support in 2004 and 2009 was quite different.

 

At the time of the 2004 elections, an Indian National Lok Dal (INLD)-BJP alliance government was in power in Haryana with a Jat chief minister. The Congress victory came on the back of overwhelming support from the Dalits. Among various groups, Jat support for the Congress was the lowest. Things changed between 2004 and 2009, when the Congress went to polls with a Jat chief minister. Its support among Dalits halved compared to 2004. The party also lost support among upper caste voters and sections of Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

See Chart 2 : The trends from the 2004 and 2009 elections suggest that the rest of the electorate is not very likely to vote for a party which is looking to consolidate Jat votes. The Congress’s difficulties increased further in 2014 when it suffered two-way erosion in social support. While the Jats deserted the party for the INLD, there was a large shift of non-Dalit, non-Jat voters towards the BJP.

See Chart 3: Post-2014, politics in the state suggests that this social alignment might continue in the 2019 elections. Large-scale violence during the Jat reservation protests in February 2016 might have revived fears of the return of Jat domination in the state’s politics. A split in the INLD — Ajay Chautala, the elder son of former chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala, quit the party to form the Jannayak Janata Party in December 2018 — suggests that Jat votes might be more fragmented in the state.

There has also been talk of intense factionalism within the Congress organisation in the state. Without giving details, Congress leader, Randeep Singh Surjewala, said that some top state leaders had not supported him during the Jind bypoll in January this year. Ashok Tanwar, the state unit chief, and Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the former chief minister, have also been at loggerheads. Tanwar was injured in 2016 when supporters of the two leaders clashed in Delhi. While the former is a Dalit, the latter represents the Jat leadership within the party. The Dalit-Jat tension is in keeping with the larger social tension in Haryana’s politics, which has been discussed above. With a division in Jat votes and the Congress being unable to consolidate non-Jat votes, the BJP might have a big advantage in the Haryana contest.

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