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BJP’s Sweeping Electoral Victory in Haryana

Kushal Pal (kushalpal66@gmail.com) teaches at the Dyal Singh College, Haryana. Jyoti Mishra (jmishra23@yahoo.com) is a researcher with Lokniti–Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s sweeping victory in Haryana in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections has highlighted the changing nature of politics in the state. The BJP overshadowed the regional parties which used to be its coalition partners in past elections. Dynastic politics which was one of the main features of Haryana politics was rendered ineffective as the BJP was accepted across various socio-demographic indicators.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) massive electoral victory in Haryana is important from various perspectives. First, it has changed the existing party dynamics in the state. Unlike other states of the Hindi heartland, the BJP could not make an easy entry in Haryana. It remained a junior partner to the regional parties such as the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), and Haryana Vikas Party (HVP). These regional parties played an important role in the state politics until the past Lok Sabha and assembly elections of 2014 (Kumar 2010: 19).

The competition in the state somehow remained bipolar as the BJP allied with certain state parties and the Indian National Congress (INC) with other regional parties. But, in this election, it was a multi-cornered contest and no party or alliance managed to win a seat against the BJP. The biggest setback in this election was for the INLD, a strong regional party that was part of the National Democratic Alliance in past elections. One clear explanation for the rout of INLD was the split within the party and the formation of Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) by the grandsons of Om Prakash Chautala, Dushyant Singh Chautala and Digvijay Singh Chautala. The JJP successfully infiltrated into the traditional support base of the INLD in alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Second, dynasty politics, a main feature of Haryana politics, receded to the background in this election. Using statistical data, Ziegfeld (2015: 1042) had claimed that the winnability of political dynasty in Haryana was higher in both state assembly elections as well as in Lok Sabha elections. However, in the 17th Lok Sabha elections, the state saw many political clans losing in their strongholds. The biggest surprise was the loss of Deepender Singh Hooda, son of ex-chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in his traditional seat, Rohtak. Bhupinder Singh Hooda also contested from Sonipat parliamentary constituency, but was defeated from there as well.

Another surprising defeat was of Dushyant Singh Chautala, a sitting member of Parliament (MP) of Hisar. The contest in Hisar was among three political clans: Dushyant Chautala (JJP) grandson of ex-chief minister Om Prakash Chautala; Bhavya Bishnoi (Congress) son of Kuldeep Bishnoi and grandson of Bhajan Lal; and Brijendra Singh (BJP) son of Birender Singh and great grandson of prominent leader of Haryana Chhotu Ram. Brijendra Singh resigned from the Indian Administrative Service and contested for the first time on the BJP’s tickets and won the election. Others who faced defeat in this Lok Sabha election were Kumari Selja, Shruti Chaudhary and Ashok Tanwar.

Third, in this election the BJP won many seats with wider margins. This indicates that despite being a multipolar contest, voters have overwhelmingly opted for the BJP. It also indicates the shrinking of the existing binaries in Haryana politics such as Jat versus non-Jat; rural versus urban; and Jat-land versus other regions. The BJP made inroads in each segment and registered higher vote share in all of them.

Looking at these political transformations in the state, the reasons of the victory of the BJP using empirical data from post-poll survey of Lokniti–Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) are analysed here. While doing so, the electoral verdict of the state has been explained. Specific political contexts such as campaign strategies used by political parties, important issues and considerations of voters while voting and the way in which the BJP widened its support base and bridged the existing social divide in Haryana, are discussed.

The BJP, venturing alone in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, won all the 10 parliamentary seats. It saw an over 20 percentage point increase in its vote share as compared to 2014. In 2009 and 2014, the BJP had allied with INLD and HJC respectively. The pre-poll alliance of JJP–AAP as well as of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)–Loktantra Suraksha Party (LSP) proved to be a non-starter in Haryana politics and their vote share was marginal (Table 1).

Political Context

Haryana has remained amongst the most electorally volatile states (Chhibber and Noorudin 2008), with rotational changes in party forming the government in assembly elections since 1972. The ruling party in the state has always suffered a setback in the Lok Sabha election (Pal and Rai 2009: 177). This trend was broken in the 2009 assembly election partially and the Congress government in the state was re-elected. However, the Congress lost in the successive Lok Sabha and state assembly elections held in 2014. The assembly election was won by the BJP without forming any alliance.

Unlike its past practice, the state has given another chance to the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections 2019. The state has always assessed the work done by the state government and accordingly voted in the Lok Sabha elections; but this trend was not followed in 2019. In the National Election Studies (NES) pre-poll survey 2019, when people were asked what would matter to them while making their vote choice, only 6% said work of state government would matter, 19% said that they would look at the work done by the central government. A little more than half of the voters in Haryana said that they would look at both the state and central governments’ work.

So, the question here is to what extent the performance of the state government, sitting members of legislative assembly (MLAs) and members of Parliament (MPs) mattered to the voters while voting in this election. The data indicates that there was not much satisfaction with the BJP’s MPs and MLAs in the state—the net satisfaction was least with BJP’s MPs followed by BJP’s MLAs. The level of satisfaction was higher with state government with the net satisfaction being 19 percentage points.

However, the net satisfaction with the central government was the highest with 26 percentage points. This indicates that while voting, voters gave more weightage to the work done by the central government. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Haryana appear to be presidential style, where despite being dissatisfied with the local representatives, people overwhelmingly supported
Narendra Modi (Pal and Jain 2019). Two-fifths of those who were completely dissatisfied with their MLAs, still voted for the BJP. Similarly, half of the voters who were dissatisfied with their MPs voted for the BJP.

Modi was clearly the driving factor for many voters. About half of the BJP voters reported that they would have voted for another party if Modi was not declared as the prime ministerial candidate. About six of every 10 respondents wanted Modi as their next Prime Minister, and he was considered important than the party or local candidate.

It was otherwise believed that the BJP derived further benefit from India’s conflict with Pakistan. But, the air strikes in Balakot seemed to have little impact on the voting preference for the BJP in Haryana. Almost an equal proportion of people reported voting for the BJP, from those who had heard about Balakot strikes and who had not. One of the most important factors working throughout the state was the “nationalism” wave (similar observation was made by the study of “politics and society between elections” by CRPE [2017]).

Moreover, micromanagement at booth level through panna pramukhs (in charge of each page of voter list) helped the BJP to reach the local voter. A little more than a quarter of the respondents in the survey said that the BJP workers visited their homes for canvassing. Nonetheless, the same proportion of voters also said that they were approached by the Congress workers. The BJP was also using other platforms and technologies to approach the voters. However, data indicates that two-thirds of the respondents had already made up their minds much before the campaigns started.

Shrinking Binaries

The mandate for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Haryana was a result of the coming together of various sections of society, dissolving the existing binaries. The power politics of Jat and non-Jat, prevailing for long, has now receded to the background. The BJP improved its vote share among Jat voters. Along with Jat, the BJP also consolidated Dalit votes in its favour. It needs a special reference here that after 2016, even though there was criticism of the Manohar Lal Khattar government for mishandling the Jat agitation, his approach helped in consolidating the non-Jat votes in its favour.

Yet the BJP managed to garner Jat votes as well. The possible reason for this could be the last minute declaration by the central government of 10% reservation for economically backward classes in government jobs and education sector. It seems to have mobilised Jat votes for the BJP. About eight of every 10 within the Jat community support this move. Among those Jats who support this reservation, about half reported that they voted for the BJP as opposed to four of every 10 voters among those who were against such reservation.

The second important change was the BJP’s penetration in the rural area of Haryana. There is a close to 30 percentage points increase in BJP’s vote share in Haryana. It also improved its performance in urban areas too by over 10 percentage points. The support for the BJP was relatively much stronger at both the ends of the age spectrum, with young voters and senior citizens reporting a greater preference for the BJP (Table 2).

In Conclusion

The 2019 parliamentary elections were significant since they indicated the decline of the dominant caste politics in Haryana. The state politics has traditionally been a battle for, vote of the dominant peasant caste—Jat between the Congress and the INLD. The BJP penetrated in this segment of voters this time around. The spectacular victory of the BJP in the 2019 parliamentary elections would prove to be a morale booster for its leadership in the upcoming assembly elections to be held in October, as the party has taken lead in as many as 79 assembly segments. The BJP would bank upon pro-incumbency of Khattar and his clean image as an honest and transparent administrator. NES post-poll survey data also shows that voters in Haryana are satisfied with state government’s performance.

This verdict requires the Congress to revisit its strategy, settle its inner disputes and put its house in order if it wishes to regain its standing in the politics of Haryana. The INLD is already divided and chances of its revival are dim. The state election would also see a strong contest for the Jat vote, especially in the Jat-dominated segments of the state. The state assembly elections may also well see the play of state-level factors in defining the nature of the campaign and the electoral verdict.

References

Chhibber, Pradeep and Irfan Noorudin (2008): “Unstable Politics: Fiscal Space and Electoral Volatility in Indian States,” Comparative Political Studies, Vol 41, No 8, pp 1069–91.

CRPE (2017): “Politics and Society between Elections: A Report,” Lokniti, CSDS and Centre for Regional Political Economy, Azim Premji University.

Kumar, Ashutosh (2010): “Assembly Elections 2009 in Haryana: Exploring the Verdict,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 45, No 1, pp 19–21.

— (2014): “The Haryana Model,” Indian Express, 1 November.

Pal, Kushal (2017): “Electoral Support Base of BJP in Haryana: Continuity and Change,” How India Votes: A State by State Look, Ashutosh Kumar and Yatindra Singh Sisodia, New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan.

— (2019): “The Resounding Success of the BJP in Haryana,” Mainstream, Vol 42, No 26.

Pal, Kushal and Anurag Jain (2019): “Beyond the Binaries of Caste,” Hindu, 30 May.

Pal, Kushal and Praveen Rai (2009): “Haryana: Congress Retains Its Electoral Supremacy,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 44, No 39, pp 177–79.

Ziegfeld, Adam (2015): “Candidate Characteristics in Indian Elections: Who Wins Votes?” Asian Survey, Vol 55, No 5, pp 1018–43.

Updated On : 9th Aug, 2019

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