Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won the Jind By Poll by a huge margin of 12,935 votes. Its candidate Dr Krishan Lal Midha got 50,566 votes compared to 37,631 votes of Jannayak Janata Party’s (JJP) Digvijay Chautala. Randeep Singh Surjewala of Indian National Congress (INC) came third with 22,740 votes and barely managed to secure his deposit.
Given that Jind is considered the political capital of Haryana, every entity, old and new, was treating it as a semi-final to upcoming Lok Sabha and assembly polls. It had become a test of Manohar Lal Khattar’s leadership as well as the BJP’s well crafted non/anti-Jat politics.
Former chief minister Om Prakhash Chautala’s political relevance and legacy was also at stake after his grandson Dushyant and Digvijay Chautala split the INLD three months ago and launched a new outfit, JJP.
By fielding Surjewala, its national spokesperson, the sitting MLA from neighbouring Kaithal constituency and who is seen to be close to Rahul Gandhi, Congress also went all in to give a tough fight.
Now that the results are out, here are some major takeaways from this all important election which will be remembered in the state politics for years to come.
First, Jind has kept alive the tradition of electing a non-Jat MLA. Though Jats comprise over 30 per cent of the electorate, no person from the community has won from here in last four decades. Since 1977, the constituency has been represented six times by a Bania and twice by a Punjabi.
This bypoll saw a contest between a Punjabi fielded by BJP and three strong Jat candidates fielded by JJP, Congress and INLD. It is in this context that the BJP’s performance should be understood. It was advantage BJP from the get-go. Even in 2014, the party had lost to INLD by merely 2,257 votes. So, BJP’s win was not unexpected or unthinkable as many have said. But the margin certainly is given that even party insiders were predicting a victory margin of only five to seven thousand votes.
Second, the BJP is now indisputably the strongest political force to reckon with in the state. Just last month, it won mayoral elections in five major cities. Now, it has clinched a Jat-dominated seat in a relatively backward area.
The BJP’s non-Jat coalition is paying rich electoral dividends. More than anything else, this is the biggest reason for the party winning this seat for the first time. However, the credit must be given to the BJP that it didn’t try to overtly polarise the election on lines of caste. Low margins of leads of JJP in rural areas show that even many Jats have voted for BJP this time, partly because INLD at the last moment also exhorted its workers to support BJP just so that its main rival JJP loses.
Another reason is efficient management of administration. Earlier, one would get reports about how INLD workers wouldn’t even let non-INLD voters in villages come out and exercise their vote freely. But, the Khattar administration gave strict orders to election officers that such incidents are not to be repeated this time and everyone is allowed to vote freely.
Apart from complex caste dynamics, there were other factors that contributed to BJP’s success, too. The people of Jind had been voting for candidates of parties that would sit in opposition and felt that this was hampering the development in the area. They wanted to elect an MLA from the ruling party. The BJP recently started many development projects in the city which were received well. Another major positive was transparency in government jobs recruitment under CM Khattar. Recently, it released results of 18,000 Group D posts and Jind came third in number of candidates selected.
Third, the biggest gainer after the BJP is the newly formed outfit JJP. Brothers Dushyant and Digvijay Chautala broke away from INLD three months ago after bitter differences with grandfather OP Chautala and uncle Abhay Chautala. Both brothers with their father Ajay and mother Naina launched JJP. Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala fielded his younger brother Digvijay in a bold move. While, it was expected that JJP will trump INLD but no one imagined that INLD which got over 31,000 votes last time will be reduced to pathetic tally of 3,454. Its very survival is now under threat because it will find it increasingly hard to stop exodus of its 13 sitting MLAs and workers to JJP.
Fourth, the biggest loser is the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). Jind was its most important stronghold and it had won this seat in 2009 and 2014 by fielding Midha’s father Dr Hari Chand Midha who passed away last year which necessitated the bypoll. In rural areas, INLD’s grip was unbreakable. Its workers were notorious for not letting non-INLD voters even come out and exercise their right to vote. This changed after Khattar administration sent signals to election officers that any such mischief won’t be tolerated. This is one reason that BJP was able to get so many votes from villages this time. Former BJP MP (Kurukshetra) Raj Kumar Saini’s Loktantra Suraksha Party (LSP) which came in fourth also benefitted from it.
Fifth, another big loser is Randeep Singh Surjewala. He is the sitting MLA from the neighbouring Kaithal constituency and was asked to contest by none other than Rahul Gandhi. Though its rivals projected it as bankruptcy of Congress but the party’s calculation was that since Jat voters will be split between INLD-JJP, Surjewala could emerge as a credible alternative and real contender against the BJP.
But, the JJP spoiled the plans by fielding an even stronger Jat candidate in Digvijay Chautala. Surjewala improved his party’s tally from 2014 level but still could barely managed to save his deposit. His appeal has always been limited to one constituency but that didn’t stop him from harbouring chief ministerial ambitions. Though all major warring factions in Haryana Congress led by former chief minister Bhupinder Hooda, Kiran Choudhary, Shelja, state president Ashok Tanwar came together and campaigned for Surjewala, they will be happy that at least his defeat has winnowed the field of CM candidates a bit.
The Jind election has sent an important electoral message to the people of Haryana that there will be only three serious parties in the fray for the foreseeable future : BJP, Congress and JJP. The BJP is likely to sweep 25 seats on the Grand Trunk Road belt from Panchkula to Delhi. It also has Rao Inderjit Singh who can deliver the whole Yadav belt which has 12 seats. The spoils of Jat belt will be split between Hooda’s Congress and Dushyant Chautala’s JJP. Soon, anti-BJP forces will start the clamour for unofficial alliance between the two to unseat Khattar which is appearing increasingly difficult.
The next assembly election is BJP’s to lose.
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