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Haryana Assembly : Political Complexities

October 18, 2014

Consider the following traits of Haryana elections that the state bequeathed in the 21st Century:

1)    The domineering role of regional parties in the state ever since its inception in 1966.
2)    The dominance of political families in the state.
3)    The predominance of caste-based politics
4)    The continuation of the ‘Aya Ram Gaya Ram’ politics of defection and splits, by exploring the loopholes in the existing anti-defection laws.
5)    The dearth of Right-wing politics
6)    Large turnout of voters during elections

political history of haryana

An important factor that adds up is the uninterrupted decade-old Congress rule under Chief Minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, since 2005. Yet, Haryana, even since its formation in 1966, did have similar uninterrupted long stints of the Congress rule in the last century too when late Bansi Lal was the CM from 22nd May 1968 to 30th November 1975 till he was inducted as a cabinet minister at the Centre. He was succeeded by another Congressman, Banarsi Das Gupta, who continued as CM till 30th April 1977 but Bansi Lal twice again became the CM – once as a Congressman between 1985 and 1987, and the other time as the leader of his own regional outfit, the Haryana Vikas Party (1996-1999).  In fact such was the clout of Bansi Lal then that people used to vote in his name irrespective of whether he belonged to the Congress or the HVP.

The domineering role of regional parties in Haryana Assembly

That the regional parties rose early in the political horizon was evident when Rao Birender Singh of the Vishal Haryana Party became the state’s second CM in 1967, albeit for less than a year. It was the state’s first regional party that was formed within six months of formation of Haryana state. It though merged with the Congress (Indira) in 1978 but the state’s flirtation with regional parties continued unabated.

The emergence of Indian National Lok Dal in 1987 led to yet another chapter of forceful regional politics in Haryana. The party founded by Devi Lal, who had served as the CM in two brief stints – first as a Janata Party leader (1977-79) and thereafter as a Janata Dal leader (1987-89) – emerged as force to reckon with in the state. Devi Lal’s regional clout made him rise to the position of deputy Prime Minister of the country in the VP Singh-led National Front government in the late eighties and the INLD still remains a leading force and the second largest party in the state under his son – the controversial four-time CM Om Prakash Chautala, who at present is serving jail term for his involvement in a teachers’ recruitment scam.

Yet, it has rather been a topsy-turvy ride for the INLD in the 21st Century. At the turn of the century it was the ruling party in Haryana. It failed to win a single Lok Sabha seat in 2004 and 2009 and could win only two seats from the state in the 2014 general elections. In the state assembly elections too, it lost power in the 2005 and 2009. In 2005 it could win only nine of the 90 assembly seats – a drastic fall since the 2000 assembly elections where it had allied with the BJP (that had parted ways from Bansi Lal’s ruling HVP in favour of the INLD) and won 47 seats to form the government in the state. In 2009 though, the INLD staged a comeback by winning 32 seats (INLD won 31 & its ally SAD won a seat) and register its formidable presence in the state politics.

Dominance of political families in Haryana

Like the previous century, clans continue to dominate Haryana politics in the 21st century. The four major clans that ruled the state between them for 44 long years are –

Some of the most prominent families of the state are:

The Devi Lal clan —Devi Lal’s son Om Prakash Chautala is a former Chief Minister and also president of Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). Chautala’s brother Ranjit Singh too was a Congress MP while his sons Ajay and Abhay are members of Legislative Assembly in the state. Ajay is also the general secretary of the INLD and even his son, Dushyant, is an MP.

The Bhajan Lal family – Bhajan Lal was a former two-time Congress CM and now his son Kuldeep Bishnoi is a former MP and president of Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) – a political outfit founded by his father. Lal’s daughter-in-law Renuka Bishnoi was an MLA. Lal’s another son Chander Mohan was a deputy CM of the state.

The Bansi Lal family – former CM Bansi Lal’s son Surender Singh was an MP while the latter’s wife Kiran Chaudhary and daughter Shruti Chaudhary too have been an MLA and MP respectively. Bansi Lal’s another son Ranbir Singh too was an MLA.

The Hooda Family – Present CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s father Ranbir Singh Hooda was a freedom fighter, Member of Constituent Assembly, Member of Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha, and an ex-Minister of Punjab & Haryana. His grandson Deepender Singh Hooda, too is an MP.

The peculiar case of the BJP in Haryana politics

Till recently, the BJP had remained a virtual non entity in Haryana politics and could survive only through political alliances with the regional satraps. In 1989, despite its pact with the Janata Dal, it lost both the parliamentary seats it contested in the state. In the 1991 general elections, when it went alone, it could not win even a single seat. Of the 89 assembly seats it contested the same year, it could win only two!

The only time that the BJP could make hay of any alliance in the state was in 1996, when it could win four of the six Lok Sabha seats that contested in the Parliamentary elections and 11 (the maximum that it could win so far) of the 25 assembly seats that it contested in alliance with HVP. The pact with late Bansi Lal’s Haryana Vikas Party was at the insistence of Narendra Modi, who was then a BJP national secretary in charge of the party affairs in Haryana).

Yet in 1999, the BJP severed its ties with the HVP to ally with the INLD.  In the Lok Sabha elections the same year, the BJP-INLD combine bagged all the ten seats in the state but in the 2000 state Assembly elections, the BJP could win only six of the 29 seats that it contested as against its ally, the INLD’s 47 out of the 62 that the latter had contested as per the seat sharing formula with the Lotus. Given its strength in the 90-member Haryana assembly, the INLD did not require the BJP and it conveniently dumped it even though the BJP continued its unconditional support to the Chautala government from outside!  But the alliance broke up in 2005 and the BJP was again left fending for itself all alone and it could win just two of the 90 seats in the state elections then. Even the INLD fared poorly with just nine seats to its kitty then and the Congress returned to power to rule the state for the next decade. In the 2009 state assembly elections, the Congress retained power by winning 41 seats as against the BJP’s 4, the HJC’s 6, the INLD’s 30, the BSP’s 1, and Others’ 8.

BJP’s dependence on family politics in Haryana

The October 15, 2014 assembly elections are very different though from the previous state elections in Haryana for three major reasons –

●  The incumbency factor against the ruling Congress
●  Chautala is in jail
●  the Narendra Modi factor

Voters’ turnout has always been high in Haryana. A large voter turnout of 72.35% in the 2009 state elections was not because of anti-incumbency but it returned the Congress to the power for the second time in succession!

Yet the record 75.5% turnout this election is not just being interpreted to be a result of anti-incumbency but also to be a strong pointer to the Narendra Modi factor in the state politics. Modi, who had served as the BJP’s prabhari (in charge) of Haryana in the ‘90s is a familiar face in Haryana politics.  He addressed almost a dozen election rallies in the state elections which is rather unusual for a Prime Minister. But he has led from the front and worked out a strategy to rake up broader issues of good governance and corruption aimed at overcoming caste equations and local factors in the state.  He has called for a riddance from the over 25 years of family rules in the state and often criticised the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government over the Robert Vadra-DLF land deals, as well as Om Prakash Chautala. He is indeed not oblivious to the fact that in this year’s general elections, his personal appeal had ensured a jump in the BJP’s share of votes in Haryana, from 17.23 per cent in 2009 general elections to 34.6 per cent and that the party registered a lead in 53 of the 90 assembly segments in the state.

Given such factors, the BJP has been forced to keep family affiliations in mind while giving the ticket or welcoming defectors this time. Former Congress general secretary Birender Singh is Jat leader Chhottu Ram’s grandson. His wife, Prem Lata Singh, is the BJP candidate in Uchana Kalan. Union Minister Rao Inderjit Singh, who left the Congress and joined the BJP, is former Chief Minister Rao Birender Singh’s son. He has secured the party ticket for his daughter Arti Rao from Rewari. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s sister Vandana Sharma is making her political debut from Safidon.

The Caste factor

The fact is that most of the CMs of Haryana belong to the Jat community – whether Bansi Lal, Devi Lal, Chautala or Hooda.  Obviously the sizeable 27 per cent Jat electorates in the state play a crucial role in state politics. It has to be seen whether Modi’s attempts to whip up passion by referring to India’s befitting reply to Pakistan in Kashmir make an impact particularly on the Jats – a warring community with a sizeable presence in the Indian army. Obviously the BJP would like to split the Jat votes to its gain in the elections. Yet, reports do suggest that the party also tried its hands on the consolidation of the other castes around the Lotus — namely Brahmins, Yadavs, Baniyas, Gujjars and Dalits. It may be pointed that Dalits have a formidable 19 per cent votes in the state.

The Aya Ram Gaya Ram Factor of Haryana Politics

Even the infamous ‘Ayaram Gayaram’ factor of Haryana politics has been a precursor to the election mood swing. The BJP too preferred Congress and INLD rebels over party workers for tickets in several constituencies. Of the 25 Jat candidates that the party fielded, 19 are the Congress and INLD deserters, like in the Parliament elections.

Yet, an important decision of the BJP was to snap ties with Kuldip Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress on the eve of the assembly elections in the state. The HJC and the BJP had joined hands about three years ago at the behest of senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj who hails from Haryana. The mutual understanding was that in a state election, the parties would each fight 45 of the 90 seats. The chief minister’s post would go to HJC chief Bishnoi. However, equations changed fast after the HJC failed to open its account in this summer’s general elections. Bishnoi – the son of former CM Bhajan Lal (whose name became synonymous with the Aaya Ram Gaya Ram politics in the country), though is no stranger to the vagaries of opportunistic politics. He has kept his options open of a pact with any party that requires its support in case of a hung assembly in the state!

WBDP17.10.2014

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

I am a journalist, educationist and filmmaker with over twenty years of experience in the media industry. I have worked in different capacities in all formats (print, television and web) in prestigious media organizations in India and abroad. As a journalist I have covered social issues, natural calamities, successive state assembly as well as parliament elections since 1989, government offices, Indian political parties, state legislative assemblies as well as Indian Parliament.

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