With the announcement of the bypoll for Haryana’s vacant Adampur assembly seat, we are now clearly seeing a test of the waters for the various power contenders within the state.
Also being dubbed as one of the indicators alongside the upcoming panchayat elections on the mood of the state, a lot of commentators are looking keenly at the development.
Kuldeep Bishnoi or someone from his family is certain of getting the BJP ticket, judging by the reaction of ‘Adampur has won, Adampur will win’ statement.
The reason for the vacancy is well known of course - Kuldeep Bishnoi had to resign following his changing parties from the Congress to the BJP.
Adampur is a seat that is seen as a stronghold for the family of Bhajan Lal, a strongman. It is a matter of record that come what may, the family has not lost the seat since 1968.
Even with the Haryana Janhit Congress experiment, Kuldeep Bishnoi had won over 47 per cent of the vote.
Some may also argue that in Bishnoi the BJP is seeking to have a charismatic face that they have lacked, and perhaps a possible future chief ministerial candidate to succeed Manohar Lal Khattar who is inching towards the age mark of 70 years by 2024.
He also serves as a non-Jat leader, which fits well into the kind of political alignments the BJP has crafted over the years and deployed successfully in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana among other places.
The Congress of course has to search for candidates for this seat, and one may expect a somewhat known face within the state to be brought into the foray.
With no love lost between Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Kuldeep Bishnoi, the chances of the Congress making it a prestige issue as well may be well within the realm of possibility.
Bhupinder Hooda told the media that many of the erstwhile Bhajan Lal supporters ditched Kuldeep and have joined hands with the Congress.
These include names like the former head of Bishnoi Mahasabha (Hisar) Pradeep Beniwal and Former Air Marshal Surender Kumar Ghotia, who were long time loyalists of the family.
The potential vote cutter for the party however may be Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that sought to field a backward caste candidate in the contest. Given the trend of AAP being a vote cutter for the Congress more than the BJP, it would remain to be seen which way they go.
The keenness is definitely there, given how Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann had conducted a rally in Adampur last month.
Of particular interest to watch would be the step taken by Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) led by Dushyant Chautala. Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) having been reduced to insignificance, 2019 was seen as the rise of Dushyant, Om Prakash Chautala’s grandson, with a clean break.
Things have not necessarily gone in his favour. However, it must be pointed out that the JJP candidate stood third in the race in Adampur in 2019.
Even as Dushyant has gone on record to state that there will be a joint candidate of the NDA, the threat of JJP getting eclipsed would definitely have been noticed.
Moreover, the Chautalas have a long-stand rivalry with the Bhajan Lal clan.
The high point of that rivalry was perhaps the controversial Disneyland dream that Om Prakash Chautala had announced and acquired land for in 1990, only to see it getting scrapped by then CM Bhajan Lal the next year, calling it ‘jan virodhi’.
Even as late as 2014 there was a huge buzz around Kuldeep Bishnoi and Abhay Chautala’s contest to win the Hisar Lok Sabha seat, which Bishnoi had won in 2011 bypoll following his father’s death.
The Bishnoi Factor, Spread Across Two States
The way BJP eagerly welcomed Kuldeep Bishnoi and seems to have accommodated him would have surprised many. There seems to be however a larger play going on of coalescing the Bishnoi community, given the proximity of the Rajasthan assembly elections.
The Bishnoi community has an impact on around 21 assembly seats in Rajasthan, thanks to their sizable presence in the relevant segments. Given how Kuldeep is the tallest political leader of the community in the present, the plan seems to be to encash his image and have an advantage across the seats in Rajasthan.
This also leads to questions around the strategy of the BJP entering the Rajasthan elections. So far, there has been no clear announcement on the chief ministerial face for the party.
Gulab Chand Kataria, the Leader of Party (LoP) from the BJP, would like to fancy his chances. The curious absence of Vasundhara Raje in the entire process also raises more questions about her level of involvement.
While it is a known secret that there is a reluctance in the BJP’s top brass in pushing for Raje, her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March this year created a buzz around a changing dynamic.
What complicates matters further is the seemingly impending exit of Sachin Pilot from the Congress. Will he join the BJP or not? If so, what would be the terms of joining the party?
The failure of the ‘rebellion’ yet again has really raised more questions on the claims around the ‘impact’ created by Pilot, even though he was credited with the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha victory of 2018.
This impact was of course always questionable - the Congress had failed to cross the barrier of 100 seats, eventually resorting to the poaching of MLAs from other parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
In contrast, 2013 had seen the Congress being reduced to less than 30 seats. Even in the ‘wave’ of discontent, BJP had managed to retain more than 70 seats, with rebel candidates clearly causing more damage to the party’s prospects - a problem that has hung around with Raje at the helm.
Given these complications, the BJP electoral team would like to ring fence its potential victory by ensuring that it creates a broad-based social spectrum of voting blocs.
The Adampur bypoll is definitely an interesting event coming up, and may even have wider ramifications. An eye however must also be maintained on the Rajasthan elections subsequently, and clearly the electoral pundits would watch out developments in the days to come.
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