In the last five years, few Bharatiya Janata Party state governments have faced as much flak as the Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana. The government was caught off guard during the 2016 Jat reservation protests, the violence by Dera Sacha Sauda in 2017 and the showdown with self-styled godman Rampal in 2014. In addition to this, Haryana has witnessed several incidents of rape and molestation, with even a BJP leader’s son being accused of stalking.
Given the state of affairs, few would have thought that Haryana would be one of the few states where the BJP isn’t just holding its ground but actually gaining in strength in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
According to a survey by Political Edge conducted across all the 90 Assembly segments in Haryana’s 10 Lok Sabha constituencies, the BJP could win as many as eight parliamentary seats in the state. This is one seat more than the party won in 2014. The survey predicts that the Congress could win two seats – an increase of one.
The main loser here is the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which has significantly reduced in strength after the split in the Chautala family and the formation of the splinter Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).
In terms of vote share, the survey predicts that the BJP could secure 46 percent of the votes, up 13 percentage points from 2014. The increase in the Congress’ vote share is predicted to be even higher – from 20.6 percent in 2014 to 37 percent – a rise of 16.4 percentage points. The INLD is said to have fallen from 24.1 percent to just nine percent.
3 Seats to Watch Out For
However, the survey says most of the seats in Haryana are being closely fought. This means that a small swing one way or the other could make a number of seats change hands.
The BJP is said to have a decisive lead in three seats: Bhiwani–Mahendragarh, Gurgaon and Sirsa.
The Congress has a sizeable lead in Rohtak, which isn’t surprising as it was one of the few seats it ended up winning in North India in its 2014 debacle. Rohtak is the bastion of the Hooda family and their popularity is evident from the fact that Deepender Singh Hooda won in 2014 despite being unable to campaign intensively due to an injury.
Leaving these four seats aside, the other six seats in Haryana are still in a flux and could change hands. Even Sirsa, which is currently held by the INLD, could become unpredictable if the JJP or Congress manage to capture the entire INLD vote .
Three seats in Haryana are particularly interesting:
The seat is currently held by JJP leader Dushyant Chautala, who had won the seat as an INLD candidate in 2014. According to the survey, the BJP has inched slightly ahead in the seat as the INLD votes have got split between the JJP and the parent party. But if the bypoll in Jind earlier this year is any indication, the JJP could spring a surprise. Even though BJP won the bypoll by fielding Ajay Midha, son of Late INLD MLA Hari Chand Middha, the JJP’s Digvijay Chautala managed to poll more votes than the Congress as well as the INLD, indicating that it is a force to reckon with in Haryana.
Dushyant Chautala can retain the seat if he manages to wean away the Jat votes that are currently split between three parties.
According to the survey, the Congress has a slender lead in the seat. It could benefit from the entry of Gujjar leader Avtar Singh Bhadana, who has represented the seat in 2004 and 2009.
He lost to BJP’s Krishan Pal Gujjar in 2014 and later joined BJP himself. Contesting on a BJP ticket, Bhadana won from the Meerapur constituency in Bijnor district in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. He returned to the Congress earlier this year, boosting the party’s prospects in Faridabad.
The BJP’s decline in Faridabad began soon after the Lok Sabha elections. Compared to the general elections, the BJP vote share fell by 20 percent in Faridabad in the Assembly polls held six months later. The gains went evenly to the Congress, INLD and BSP.
With Bhadana back, Faridabad is Congress’ strongest bet in Haryana after Rohtak.
Until 2014, the BJP had never won from Kurukshetra, which is famous as the place where the battle in Mahabharata was fought. According to the Political Edge survey, the BJP has an extremely narrow lead in the seat.
Raj Kumar Saini won the seat for the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections but he quit the party in 2018 and formed the Loktantra Suraksha Party.
Being from the OBC Saini or Mali community, Saini threatens to upset the BJP’s attempt to consolidate non-Jat votes in Haryana. Saini has now formed an alliance with the BSP and is likely to upset electoral calculations in Haryana, particularly in Kurukshetra.
Haryana is also one of the states where the Pulwama attack and Balakot stike could have an impact. According to CVoter, the BJP’s projected vote share in Haryana increased by 2.7 percent between January and March this year.
This is not surprising as the BJP in Haryana witnessed a similar increase after the Kargil war. The BJP’s vote share increased by over 10 percent between the 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections, though this was also partly courtesy its alliance with the INLD.
The Indo-Pak factor could give BJP an added advantage besides the non-Jat consolidation, which is the main reason behind its success in Haryana.
However, the X-factor in the state are the changing political allegiances. These include the formation of new parties like the JJP and LSP, the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party as well as the defection of leaders like Avtar Singh Bhadana from the BJP to Congress and Arvind Sharma from the Congress to BJP.
(Survey methodology: The survey was conducted in February in all Assembly segments across 10 states. 50 respondents were interviewed at different locations in each Assembly segment, using random stratified sampling.)