Haryana Rajya Sabha By-Poll: Why Opposition Is Reluctant To Field Candidate Against BJP

Nishtha Anushree

Jul 11, 2024, 04:14 PM | Updated 04:14 PM IST

Bhupinder Singh Hooda (L) and Dushyant Chautala (R)
Bhupinder Singh Hooda (L) and Dushyant Chautala (R)
  • None of the opposition parties are willing to nominate a candidate due to insufficient numbers and mutual distrust.
  • Haryana is witnessing an interesting political scenario where opposition parties are abstaining from fielding candidates against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Rajya Sabha by-poll.

    The vacancy arose after Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda was elected to the Lok Sabha from Rohtak, necessitating by-polls, which have not been notified yet.

    Instead of contesting to retain the seat, the Congress has urged the former BJP ally Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) to nominate a candidate and seek Congress' support.

    This comes after JJP president Dushyant Chautala urged the Congress to declare the Rajya Sabha candidate. In response, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda urged Chautala to do so.

    Hooda suggested that either former Haryana Deputy CM Chautala should run for the contest himself or field his brother, Digvijay Chautala. While Dushyant is an MLA from Uchana in the Jind district, Digvijay is the JJP general secretary.

    In response, Chautala suggested that Hooda should field his wife Asha Hooda or daughter-in-law Shweta Mirdha Hooda, implying that the Hooda family believes they are entitled to the Rajya Sabha seat.

    Chautala's jibe was a reference to the 2020 Rajya Sabha election in Haryana when Bhupinder Hooda, instead of renominating his political rival within the party, Kumari Selja, nominated his son Deepender.

    However, none of the opposition parties are willing to nominate a candidate due to their lack of sufficient numbers and mutual distrust regarding support from other opposition parties.

    The number game

    The 90-member house currently has 87 members, with one Congress MLA winning the Lok Sabha seat, one Independent MLA passing away, and another Independent MLA resigning to join the BJP, though subsequently losing the Lok Sabha election.

    This leaves the BJP with a current strength of 41 seats, the Congress with 29 seats, and Chautala's JJP with 10 MLAs. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP) each have one MLA, and there are five Independents.

    BJP has the support of 43 MLAs including 41 of its own, Independent MLA Nayan Pal Rawat and an HLP MLA Gopal Kanda. Three of the remaining four Independent MLAs have announced support to the Congress.

    Independent MLA from Meham, Balraj Kundu and INLD’s Abhay Chautala are yet to reveal which side they are on. Leaving them aside, the BJP has the support of 43 MLAs and the Congress-JJP combine has 42 MLAs.

    Congress-JJP candidate can only win if both undecided MLAs pledge their allegiance to the opposition. However, Congress is hesitant to trust JJP because five of its MLAs had defied the whip during Nayab Saini's trust vote.

    Meanwhile, Dushyant Chautala has assured that all 10 JJP MLAs will back the Congress candidate. However, the Congress is reluctant to declare one due to past events dating back to 2022.

    Back then, despite needing numbers, the Congress nominee Ajay Maken failed to secure victory due to cross-voting, resulting in BJP-backed independent Kartikeya Sharma winning instead.

    If Congress fails to retain the seat, the number of Congress Rajya Sabha members from Haryana will be down to zero, negatively affecting morale ahead of the assembly elections due in October.

    Meanwhile, the BJP plans to field a woman candidate. Among the probable names in the race is one of a Dalit woman, Banto Kataria, who previously contested the Lok Sabha election from Ambala unsuccessfully.

    The other two probable candidates are Jats — former Sirsa MP Sunita Duggal and Tosham MLA Kiran Chaudhary, who recently joined the BJP after leaving Congress.

    Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.

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