Party vote share cut by 8 percentage pts in Hisar by-election.
A test case for Anna Hazare’s political intervention was the Hisar Lok Sabha by-election. His team campaigned indefatigably and urged people to vote against the Congress in a tactic ostensibly meant to create pressure for the passage of the Jan Lok Pal Bill, which Hazare said would end corruption in government.
The result declared today suggests the Hazare line of voting for the Jan Lok Pal and against the Congress may have found its target. The Congress lost heavily.
Son of former chief minister Bhajan Lal (whose death caused the vacancy), Kuldeep Bishnoi, won the election with a slender majority while the Congress candidate Jai Prakash lost his deposit. The jury is still out on why a ruling Congress government suffered such a humiliating defeat and how much the anti-Congress campaign by Anna Hazare contributed to it. But while Bishnoi won his seat by a mere 6,300 votes, he increased his party’s vote share from 29 to 39 per cent. Likewise, Indian National Lok Dal’s (INLD’s) Ajay Chautala improved his party’s vote share from 29 to 38 per cent. Both appear to have gouged huge chunks out of the Congress share, which shrank from 24 to 16 per cent. And, over a period of just two years.
The Hazare campaign could have been one reason for the sorry Congress outcome, but observers say caste played a critical role. Bishnoi is a non-Jat in a state dominated by Jat politics. The Jat vote got divided between Ajay Chautala and Jai Prakash, both Jats.
If the Hazare campaign alone had worked, Ajay Chautala may not have been favoured by voters. He is under the CBI scanner for allegedly having taken bribes during the chief ministerial tenure of his father Om Prakash Chautala.
However, he increased the number of votes his party polled over the last time.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which were backing Bishnoi unreservedly in the by-election, believe Bhajan Lal’s son won because he got the consolidated votes of the entire non-Jat community while the Jat community was divided between Ajay Chautala and Jai Prakash.
|WHEN CASTE EQUATIONS COLLIDE (Hisar Lok Sabha by-election)
|| % vote
|Haryana Janhit Congress (BL)
|Indian National Lok Dal
|*Bhajan Lal died in June this year. The total number of votes polled in 2009 was 828,461
There was 69.8 per cent polling in the 2011 by-election, with a total of 910,000 votes (69.8 per cent of 1.3 million)
Interestingly, riding high on the sympathy wave after the death of Bhajan Lal, Bishnoi managed to get more than 355,000 votes, 77,000 more than his late father got the last time. His immediate rival Ajay Chautala, who won the loyalty of the Jat community, got 349,000 votes. But, the difference of votes between Bishnoi and Chautala is a mere 6,323.
“My victory is because of God’s grace and basically because of my father and family’s track record. We have done a lot for Hisar,” said Bishnoi.
As a result of the huge 69 per cent turnout, both Bishnoi and Ajay Chautala collectively gained 185,000 votes this time. The total number of voters in Hisar is a little over 1.3 million.
Team members of social activist Anna Hazare claimed the Hisar by-election was a referendum against the Congress and the ruling UPA must learn a lesson from the result. But, not many within the RSS and the Congress are ready to believe this.
“The victory has nothing to do with the campaigning by Hazare’s team members,” Bishnoi said.
“The main battle was again Jat versus non-Jat voters. But, it cannot be denied the voters have voted against the Congress candidate as there has been a considerable decline in the number of votes the party got. There are internal problems in the Congress in Haryana and this time people did not like the party’s choice of candidate,” said a senior RSS leader.
There are indications Dalit voters went against the Congress this time. It is a party they have backed traditionally. An incident a few months ago wherein Jats and Dalits clashed in a part of the Hisar constituency, Mirchpur, left Dalit voters with the impression that justice had not been done by the Jat chief minister, Bhupendra Singh Hooda.