Haryana’s Three Dynasties Battle It Out In Hisar: Modi Wave Gives BJP An Edge Against Dushyant Chautala
Thanks to Modi wave, BJP has an edge in Hisar. It is bagging most of the non-Jat votes in addition to some Jat votes as well.
Now, the weaker Congress becomes, stronger the possibility of BJP defeating JJP. And by all accounts, Congress hasn’t run a good campaign.
In my ground report covering Sonipat seat, I wrote how 2019 general elections in Haryana are playing out as a semi-final to assembly polls scheduled to be held later this year in October. All Chief Minister hopefuls from Congress are contesting in the Lok Sabha poll - Bhupinder Hooda from Sonipat, his son Deepender from Rohtak, party state president Ashok Tanwar from Sirsa, Kumari Selja from Ambala, Kuldeep Bishnoi’s son Bhavya from Hisar, Kiran Chaudhary’s daughter Shruti from Bhiwani, Capt Ajay Singh Yadav from Gurugram, etc.
Another CM aspirant, Jannayak Janata Party’s (JJP) Dushyant Chautala, is in the fray from Hisar seat which he currently represents. He was ousted from family-run party Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), controlled by his uncle Abhay Chautala. Abhay was leading INLD in absence of his father Om Prakash Chautala and elder brother Ajay who are lodged in Tihar jail serving 10 year term in teacher recruitment scam. In December last year, Ajay and his two sons - Dushyant and Digvijay were expelled by Abhay for anti-party activities after which they launched their own outfit - JJP. In Jind by-poll held recently, JJP proved its mettle and came 2nd while the parent INLD faction stood distant fifth, fetched 3,000 odd votes and suffered humiliating defeat. The debate has been settled. JJP led by young turks Dushyant and Digvijay is the preferred choice of Chautala clan’s loyal vote base.
Coming back to Hisar, this is how the parties fared in 2014 general election.
A lot has changed since 2014. The contest now is between three political families. BJP has fielded Union Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh’s son Brijender against Dushyant Chautala. Singh quit his civil services job for politics just before getting the party ticket. Chaudhary Birender Singh has had decades-long running political feud with the Chautalas. Congress has given ticket to Bhajan Lal’s grandson Bhavya Bishnoi. His father Kuldeep Bishnoi was in alliance with NDA in 2014 but later merged his party with Congress.
Bishnoi made last election into a Jat vs non-Jat fight. He thought that Jat votes will get divided between Congress and INLD and he will win easily. Bishnoi led from six assembly segments, Chautala from just three but the margin on these three seats was so high that it erased Bishnoi’s gains from six seats. Chautala won by over 40,000 votes.
This time too, contest is triangular. On three assembly seats - Nalwa, Adampur, Hisar, the fight is between BJP and Congress with JJP in third position. On the remaining six seats, the BJP is in direct fight with JJP. Congress is in third position here. BJP has an edge overall because it is either first or second in all assembly segments. However, like in 2014, the winner may be decided by margins of leads.
By fielding Brijendra, a Jat, BJP has created trouble for Chautala because Uchana, the seat which gave Dushyant a lead of over 50,000 votes, will not be a cakewalk this time. Brijender’s mother Premlata is sitting MLA from here and she had defeated Dushyant Chautala in 2014 assembly elections (Yes, Dushyant contested assembly election from Uchana, within months of winning the Hisar LS seat).
Brijender is also expected to do better (than what Kuldeep Bishnoi did in 2014) in Jat dominated Narnaund and Uklana.
In Uchana, Brijender is giving tough fight. “Two factors are working in BJP’s favour. One, Chaudhary Birender has been contesting from here since 1977 so he has thousands of personal voters. Second, Modi factor is anyway helping him immensely,” explains a trader in Uchana market. Ram Mehar, former INLD supporter, who is voting for BJP in 2014 doesn’t agree with the first point. “If there are personal voters of Birender, there are many who detest him to the core. He has been doing his politics for the last forty years but look at the development of this area. He hasn’t been able to get anything done.”
While Brijender is going to have an edge in the town, Chautala is likely to fare much better in villages. In Karsindhu village near Uchana town, one is hard pressed to find a BJP supporter. Subhash Chand, a local, tells me that Brijender’s mother hasn’t done a single work in the village in past five years despite being an MLA. “Dushyant’s votes are intact. INLD split has had no impact. In fact, JJP will get more votes from the village this time,” Yudhvir Deshraj assures me. Deshraj’s father has been an MLA from Uchana multiple times. He is the reason why this village is such a stronghold of Chautalas.
Chattar, the biggest village in Uchana assembly constituency, is another such village which has always backed Chautalas. When Om Prakash Chautala defeated Chaudhary Birender Singh in 2009 assembly elections by just 600 odd votes, it was Chattar that proved decisive. But this impenetrable fort of Chautalas seems to be crumbling. Villagers tell me that Premlata has got many development works done and this is bound to bump BJP’s vote share. “In 2014, Dushyant got more than 60 per cent votes from the village. This time, it will be reduced to half of that. There are around 800 INLD voters still left in the village who may vote for BJP to defeat Dushyant,” Jagbir Mor tells me.
In Narnaund assembly segment, while BJP is sweeping non-Jat votes, it is not able to make significant dent in Jat base of JJP except in Khanda Kheri. Out of more than 30 people at three different places in the village that we talked to, we found only two JJP supporters. This is understandable as it’s Haryana Finance Minister Captain Abhimanyu’s village who is sitting MLA from Narnaund.
But Swarajya found that in other villages in Narnaund , BJP is losing a lot of votes due to anti-incumbency of Abhimanyu. While Khanda Kheri got herbal park, anaz mandi, new bus stand, hospital and a school, neighbouring big villages such as Bass and Petwar complain about being ignored. In Bass, elders complain about government interference in day to day lives. “Har cheez ke liye line mein khada hona padta hai. Aaj ye form bharo, kal ye kaagaz banwao.” Earlier, they wouldn’t withdraw pension amount every month, letting it accumulate into a considerable sum. “Now, we have to because if we don’t go for three months, they delete our name from beneficiary list,” one elder tells me.
Villagers say that while Dushyant’s votes are firmly with him like 2014, Congress has been wiped out as its support base shifted to BJP. Since Bishnoi alienated Jats in 2014 thanks to anti-Jat rhetoric, even Jat voters of Congress are shifting to either BJP or Dushyant depending on who they hate more.
In Petwar, we talked to more than 20 people. Disdain for the BJP here is seen to be believed. “Abhimanyu got more than 2,000 votes from the village last time. He hasn’t come here even once. And don’t get us started on what he did during quota agitation,” says a youth playing cards near the village pond. He is referring to Abhimanyu not withdrawing cases against rioters during 2016 Jat quota agitation who tried to burn his Rohtak home.
Narnaund town is favourable for the BJP. Inderjit Valmiki says that he could never imagine his children would get government job one day without paying a single paisa in bribe. “This is the first government which values rule of law. Chahe badda landlord ho ya gareeb, sabko ek jaisa bartaav karte hain police wale. I have never seen any government like this in my life.”
In Rakhigarhi, the site of oldest Indus Valley Civilisation discovered so far, people have litany of complaints against Captain Abhimanyu. Those who are voting for the BJP are doing so only because of Modi. They said that come October, this charity won’t be extended to Abhimanyu. Shamsher Rakhi was in Sangh and the BJP for 23 years. He is now a JJP supporter. Though he agrees that Dushyant will get less votes from the village than he did in 2014 because of Modi wave.
Sisai is not just the biggest village in Narnaund but is the biggest one in Haryana. Here, Jats of Sihag gotra are dominant in numbers. It is also the gotra of Chautala family (Chautala is not a real surname but is a village where the family hails from). No wonder, the village has backed INLD with all its might. This time, BJP seems to be gaining some ground, however, the majority of villagers continue to be in Dushyant Chautala’s camp. “Last time, it was a one-sided election in favour of Dushyant. Since Bishnoi was dividing people on basis of caste, for bhaichara’s sake, we convinced other castes in the village to also vote for Dushyant. This time, BJP will chip away at that coalition,” Dayanand Sheokhand explains.
In Hansi and Bawani Khera assembly segments, the BJP is clearly ahead of both Bishnoi and Chautala. We visited Jamalpur, Rajput villages Lohari Jatu and Tigrana apart from both Hansi and Bawani Khera towns. Here, non-Jats rule the roost and BJP is running away with most of the votes that were earlier cornered by Bishnoi. Apart from Modi factor, youth in villages laud CM Khattar for cleaning up the mess in government job recruitment which they said was laden with corruption in earlier governments. The state BJP government has also earned many converts by building roads in the area and constructing cemented streets inside the villages.
To sum up, BJP has a slight edge in Hisar as it is bagging most of the non-Jat votes that Bishnoi got in 2014, in addition to some Jat votes. Now, the weaker Bishnoi becomes, stronger the possibility of BJP defeating JJP. And by all accounts, Congress hasn’t run a good campaign. Nonetheless, it will boil down to how well Brijender performs in Uchana, Uklana and Narnaund - three segments which gave Dushyant Chautala an insurmountable lead of over 1.1 lakh votes in 2014.
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