National

Haryana Political Crisis: The Game of Chinese Checkers Has Just Begun

The focus shifts to the upcoming Assembly elections, current crisis gives a boost to the Congress in the ongoing Lok Sabha Elections

Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Chief Minister of Haryana, Nayab Singh Saini and Union Minister of State and BJP Gurugram parliamentary constituency candidate, Rao Inderjit Singh coming out after filing nomination for the Lok Sabha Election Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
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The withdrawal of support of three independent MLAs from Nayab Singh Saini’s BJP government has shifted the focus of Haryana politics to the Assembly elections to be held in October 2024, even before the first ballot has been cast for the Lok Sabha elections. Haryana politics is likely to get murkier in the days to come. The shifting of loyalty of the three independent MLAs—Randhir Golan, Dharmpal Gonder and Sombir Singh Sangwan—has given a boost to the Congress in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. 

There is no imminent threat to the stability of the Saini government. The Congress has 30 MLAs, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) has 10 MLAs, there are four independent MLAs and one Lok Dal MLA. So, in the House of 88, the Opposition is in the majority as two seats are vacant. But the catch lies in the loyalty of 10 JJP MLAs towards Dushyant Chautala. Some of the JJP MLAs have indicated their affinity towards the BJP in the past. That’s why, Bhupinder Hooda, the Congress leader, issued the statement that the Congress would stake the claim to form the government only if the JJP physically presents its MLAs before the Governor. There is no likelihood of the Congress replacing the BJP because if we look at Haryana’s political history of the past 40 years, we notice that in the state, governments have been formed by the party which has the majority at the Centre. 

In such a scenario, the role of the Governor and the Assembly Speaker becomes very crucial. In many states, we have observed that the role of these two high offices has been very controversial and partisan. So, it is obvious that the Governor and the Speaker would not oblige to the Congress so easily. 

The split in the JJP has already begun. Haryana otherwise is also infamous for initiating the politics of ‘Aaya Ram and Gaya Ram’.  So, it would not be surprising if all the JJP MLAs, except for the son-mother duo of Dushyant and Sunaina Chautala, join thebjp"> BJP or give it support from the outside. So, the game of Chinese checkers has just begun; more surprises are in the offing in the coming months. 

These developments have given a boost to the Congress’ campaign in the Lok Sabha elections, and it has been demoralising for the BJP because now, the focus of the ruling party would shift towards saving its government. After nearly 15 years, the Congress is in a fighting spirit, expected to share the spoils evenly with the BJP. In the 2019 elections, the Congress lost all the 10 Lok Sabha seats but with the waning charisma of Prime Minister Modi, the Congress has redeemed some of its lost prestige and social support base. 

Modi’s fading appeal and charisma could be understood by referring to Max Weber’s explanation in which he talks about charisma when it gets routinised and the theatrics are no longer seen as spectacular. That is why M L Khattar had to be replaced as the Chief Minister because the anti-incumbency against Khattar would have impacted the Lok Sabha elections. 

Saini’s promotion as the Chief Minister would galvanise the backward in the favour of the BJP. Haryana is a small state and the expectations from the Government are too high, especially as far as employment in the government sector is concerned. So, the revolution of rising expectations is leading to a revolution of rising frustrations in the youth due to the lack of employment opportunities. For example, there has been no recruitment of college teachers in the last five years in the state. No vacancies have been filled in the Group C category in the state in the past 3-4 years.

Haryana contributes significantly to the Indian armed forces and the Agniveer scheme has been very demoralising for the youth who see the Army as a life-long career option. The other factor is the farmers’ protest which has alienated the major farming community—the Jats—from the BJP. 

Rohtak, Sonipat and Sirsa are the three seats where the Congress is in a strong position. Ambala, Hisar and Bhiwani-Mahendergarh are witnessing a tough electoral battle between the BJP and the Congress. The safe seats for the BJP are Karnal, Gurugram-Rewari, Kurukshetra and Faridabad-Palwal seats. Since the Assembly elections would follow the Lok Sabha elections, it could be observed that there is an intermingling of issues. The issues that would have exclusively impacted the state elections are being raised for the Lok Sabha elections as well. This may prove detrimental to the BJP’s prospects in the Lok Sabha elections. 

The Lok Sabha elections would make or break the prospects of many leaders. The stakes for Bhupinder Hooda are quite high because he would like to pass the political baton to his son Deepender Hooda. Haryana has witnessed the dominance of its politics by the three Lals—Bansi Lal, Devi Lal and Bhajan Lal—for a major part of its existence since 1966. The era of the Lals is over and their legacy has not been carried on successfully by their inheritors. Bhupinder Hooda’s family is the fourth family to dominate Haryana politics because of the active participation of the three Hoodas in public life. 

For Bhupinder Hooda, these elections are a litmus test as he has to fight not only the BJP but also the detractors within his own party. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP went all out to defeat Deepender Hooda from Rohtak. This time also, the BJP will not spare any efforts to marginalise the Hoodas on their own home turf because the BJP sees Bhupinder Hooda as the lone challenger to the establishment of its long-term hegemony in the state. 

A victory in Rohtak and some other seats by the Congress would be seen as paving the path for the return of Hooda to power. So, the battle is being raged at different levels. Hooda not only is in competition with the BJP but also fighting factionalism within the Congress. The stakes for all the players are too high in these elections. 

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Rajendra Sharma is Head, Department of Political Science, Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak 

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