The Bharatiya Janata Party’s slogan of winning 75 of the 90 Assembly seats in Haryana fell flat on Thursday that had party chief summon state Chief Minister (CM) Manohar Lal Khattar to the national capital. Only three of the 12 ministers in the latter’s council of ministers could get re-elected.
A majority eluded the BJP even as it emerged the single-largest party, improving its vote share by three percentage points over its 2014 Assembly performance — it had won an unprecedented 47 seats in 2014 to form its first full majority government in the state.
The BJP was set to form the government with some of the independents and small parties.
The defeat of state unit chief Subhash Barala as well as nine ministers reflected the undercurrent of anger against the Khattar government. The election also had total collapse of the vote share of the Indian National Lok Dal, with Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) replacing the parent party.
“75 par ka toh pata kona, par iss baar ya BJP nai Jamana par jaroor ghal daage (I don’t know about the BJP achieving its 75+ target but we’ll throw them across Yamuna),” a farmer in Rohtak district said two days before Haryana went to polls.
There is anger at the BJP for not delivering on its promises after having formed the government in 2014 on the plank of good governance. The BJP’s strategy of uniting 35 castes and isolating the Jats could not succeed. After the February 2016 agitation and communal violence, the Khattar government was at loggerheads with the Jats.
The Congress, under former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, reached out to other communities, particularly the Brahmins and Dalits. Congress won seats in Hooda’s strongholds of Rohtak, Sonipat, Jhajjar, Panipat, Bhiwani, and Jind. Similarly, JJP’s candidates won in Hisar, Sirsa, Charkhi Dadri, Fatehabad, Jind, and Bhiwani, where the Chautala family has influence.
The Khattar government faced allegations of corruption in recruitment in government jobs. “Mahara balak chapdasi or Gujarat ka balak afsar lag rha sa, ab mahara balak padh likh ke chai pakdawaga (our children are given peon’s jobs, but those from Gujarat were selected as officers. Will our educated children serve tea now,” said Rati Ram in Fatehabad district. Another farmer said: “Yo Khattar khud to chapdasi tho hi, ab yo mahara balaka nai bhi chapdasi banavago (Khattar was himself a peon. Now he wants to make our children the same).”
The Opposition was able to dent the Khattar government’s image of bina kharchi or parchi ki sarkar, a government that is incorruptible and does not indulge in nepotism. It was found that 47 of 55 general category candidates selected in the SDO (sub-divisional officer) recruitments were from other states, which upset the people of Haryana. Giving out grade-C and -D jobs to Haryanvi youth and appointing officers from other states on higher grades didn’t go down well.
The government failed to address the issues of farmers. The cap on per acre produce, low minimum support price, and lack of support turned out to be the reason for the BJP losing support of farmers, who had voted for the party in 2014.
The state had its lowest voter turnout (68.47 per cent) after 19 years. The poor turnout in the regions where the BJP took a lead in the previous elections reflects the caders’ firm belief that it would win. Karnal, from where Khattar was seeking a re-election, recorded a modest turnout of 50 per cent.
At 28 per cent, the unemployment rate in the state is the highest in the country. The reports of Maruti Suzuki and other industries cutting down on production during the election helped the Opposition, particularly the Congress.
It helped the Congress that Hooda distanced himself from party leader Rahul Gandhi’s positions on Article 370 and other issues. He supported scrapping of Article 370, neutralising the BJP campaign.
While Hooda kept an open house for party workers, where he would meet them and ensured that they get fed if they visited him, Khattar remained aloof from party workers. The BJP’s strategy of fielding sportspersons did not succeed as Olympic medalist Yogeshwar Dutt lost from Baroda constituency while wrestler Babita Phogat lost Dadri seat to an independent candidate. However, former India hockey captain Sandeep Singh won.