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Kuldeep Bishnoi Joins BJP: How Will This Impact Haryana & Hisar Politics?

With his fortunes on the decline, perhaps Kuldeep Bishnoi didn't have much choice but to quit Congress and join BJP.

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Congress MLA from Adampur, Kuldeep Bishnoi, joined the BJP on 4 August in the presence of Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar at the party headquarters in New Delhi. This happened a day after he resigned as MLA from the Adampur constituency in Haryana.

Bishnoi is the son of Haryana's longest serving chief minister Bhajan Lal.

Bishnoi had been expelled from the Congress after he was accused of cross voting in the Rajya Sabha election, causing the defeat of the party nominee Ajay Maken.

In the past few weeks, he met top BJP leaders like home minister Amit Shah and BJP president Jagat Prakash Nadda so his joining the party doesn't come as a surprise.

Soon after joining the BJP, he gave a bit of parting advice to the Congress, saying that it had deviated from the ideals of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and needed to go back to these ideals if it has to defeat the BJP.

Two questions arise:

  1. Why did Kuldeep Bishnoi take this step?

  2. Will this change equations in Haryana politics?

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Why Did Kuldeep Bishnoi Quit Congress and Join BJP?

Bishnoi's career had been in a crisis for some time now. He won a bypoll from the Hisar Lok Sabha seat in 2012 as the BJP-supported Haryana Janhit Congress candidate but to Dushyant Chautala (then in INLD) in 2014, despite having the BJP's support in a Modi wave. The other candidate fielded by HJC also lost and the party was reduced to nought.

He merged the HJC into the Congress in 2016. However, his son Bhavya Bishnoi lost from Hisar on a Congress ticket in 2019, as the BJP swept all 10 seats in Haryana in the Lok Sabha elections.

However, Bishnoi himself won from Adampur in the Assembly elections later that year.

The main problem for Bishnoi is the BJP's near complete domination of non-Jat politics in Haryana. Bishnoi's father Bhajan Lal was Haryana's longest serving CM, despite being from the numerically small Bishnoi community. Bhajan Lal maintained his hold by consolidating non-Jat votes against perceived Jat domination.

The BJP captured power in a similar manner in 2014 at a time when Haryana politics was being dominated by two Jat clans - the Hoodas and the Chautalas.

The BJP has cleverly consolidated non-Jat votes in the state, even as Jats have remained divided between the Congress and INLD and later Congress, JJP and INLD.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP even managed to get a sizable chunk of Jat votes.

However, the Jat community had its revenge to some extent in the 2019 Assembly elections as it voted tactically for the Congress in districts like Sonepat and Rohtak and JJP in the Jat heartland in Northern parts of Haryana, pushing BJP below the majority mark. As a result, the BJP was forced to share power with the JJP as a post-poll alliance.

With his fortunes on the decline, perhaps Kuldeep Bishnoi didn't have much choice but to quit Congress and join BJP.
Congress leaders including Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Deepender Singh Hooda and others sit on an indefinite fast to press for social harmony in Haryana, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Feb 21, 2016. (Photo: IANS) 

The farmers' protest represented led to a great deal of Jat anger against BJP and JJP and the Hoodas tried to use it to target the JJP's base.

The continued dominance of the Hoodas in the Congress greatly restricted scope for Bishnoi in the party and it was only a matter of time before he jumped ship.

He is also said to have been negotiating with the Aam Aadmi Party and he was also mulling reviving the HJC. But BJP's dominance of the non-Jat votebank seems to have made that path difficult for Bishnoi as well, leaving him no other choice but to join BJP.

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What Impact Will This Have on Haryana Politics?

No doubt, this is a shot in the arm for the BJP and a blow for the Congress. But there are limits to how much it would change political equations in the state.

In reality Kuldeep Bishnoi doesn't have much of a base beyond Adampur. The fact that he couldn't win with BJP support even in the middle of a BJP wave in 2014 reflected the limits of his popularity even in his main area of influence, Hisar.

His exit is only likely to strengthen the hold of the Hoodas in the Congress.

The BJP would also hope that his helps it win the support of the Bishnoi community in the Rajasthan Assembly elections next year, though it is not clear how much currency Kuldeep Bishnoi has in his community outside of Haryana.

A key question is what impact would this have on the BJP's equation with the JJP.

A major bone of contention will be the Hisar Lok Sabha constituency.

The seat is currently held by Brijender Singh of the BJP. It was won by Dushyant Chautala (then in INLD) in 2014. In 2009, Bhajan Lal had won from the seat on a HJC ticket and Kuldeep Bishnoi won the bypoll after Bhajan Lal passed away in 2011.

It is quite likely that someone from the Chautala family would contest the Lok Sabha election from Hisar. The name of Dushyant Chautala's brother Digvijay Chautala is doing the rounds as a possible JJP candidate.

On the other hand, within the BJP there are several claimants to the seat and Kuldeep Bishnoi would be another one added to that list.

However, it is likely that Bishnoi's son Bhavya Bishnoi will contest the bypoll from Adampur now that Kuldeep Bishnoi has to vacate it after changing parties.

It remains to be seen whether the BJP fields Kuldeep Bishnoi, sitting MP Brijender Singh or any of the other claimants, from Hisar. The names of senior leader Captain Abhimanyu and a prominent industrialist are also doing the rounds.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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