Political posturing is on and the Aya Ram- Gaya Ram syndrome is fully on display as countdown for the state assembly polls begin in Haryana. Already the Election Commission, which is yet to announce the election dates, has expressed its satisfaction with the poll preparations in the state. As the ruling Congress fights anti-incumbency and a resurgent BJP, tough time is ahead of the two-term chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in the state this time.
Initial trends suggest that the BJP is far ahead of other political parties and is in the most commanding position in Haryana. The party, for the first time ever, had won seven of the 10 Lok Sabha seats in this year's general election. In the process it also registered a lead in 53 of the 90 assembly segments in the state. Its share of votes too jumped to a commendable 34.6 per cent from a dismal 17.21 per cent in the 2009 general elections.
Indeed the BJP is looking forward to better its miserable 2009 performance when it could win only four assembly seats in the state. The party president Amit Shah launched the poll campaign with a rally, organised by the Congress dissident and Rajya Sabha MP Birender Singh Chaudhary in Jind on August 16. Singh formally joined the BJP at the rally.
Yet more spectacular was the BJP's poster boy and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the state to lay the foundation stone for the modernisation of the Ambala-Hisar national highway on August 19. During his public rally at Kaithal, where CM Hooda was also present, the latter was shouted down by Narendra Modi supporters that made him vow that he will never share stage with PM again.
Hooda on his part is expected to hold a rally in Panipat on August 24 which is being seen as Hooda's show of strength. Reports suggest that Hooda has asked party ticket seekers, in particular, to bring crowds to the rally. The Chief Minister, who has already announced many sops to the people to counter anti-incumbency, is likely to announce his election manifesto during the rally.
Yet it is not going to be easy for Hooda in face of the criticisms from his own party leaders about his style of functioning. Besides Birender Singh Chaudhary who subsequently left the Congress to join the BJP, senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Kumari Selja too has accused Hooda of biased development with thrust on Rohtak constituency from where he contests. In a recent ABP News-Nielsen Opinion Poll too, 71 per cent respondents felt that Hooda only focussed on development of Rohtak & ignored rest of Haryana. Venod Sharma, a former union minister and Hooda's closest confidant for nearly a decade, too quit the Congress in March to form his own Jan Chetna party. Hooda's senior minister Ajay Singh Yadav too has quit the Hooda government and another state minister, Kiran Chaudhary, too is reportedly not in best of terms with the Chief Minister.
Earlier too, before the Lok Sabha elections, three of the winning BJP candidates Rao Inderjit Singh (Gurgaon), Ramesh Chander Kaushik (Sonepat) and Dharambir Bhaleram (Bhiwani-Mahendragarh) were 'imports' from the Congress who had quit the party following differences with Hooda. Singh, while still a Congress MP, had even floated a Haryana Insaf Manch against Hooda who, the former charged, was discriminating between his home constituency Rohtak and others. Only recently, the four-time Congress MP Avtar Singh Bhadana, who had lost the last general election, too joined the exodus from ruling Congress in poll-bound Haryana, spitting venom against Hooda. Even the BSP has sought to exploit Hooda's plight by projecting the Congress defector and former Congress MP Arvind Sharma as the party's chief ministerial candidate in the assembly elections.
In the 2009 state assembly elections, the Congress had won 41 seats. BJP 4, HJC 6, INLD 30, BSP 1, and Others 8. However, now things have changed and the BJP appears to be the largest beneficiary of the feud in the Congress and the perceived anti-incumbency wave against it. Even the above mentioned opinion poll has suggested that this time the BJP could win 46 seats in the state if it contests with its 3-year-old ally Haryana Janhit Congress (BL) which could bag 10 seats in ensuing elections for the 90-member Haryana House. Even without the alliance, the survey showed the BJP could win 43 seats. The survey predicted between 19-26 seats for the Indian National Lok Dal and 13 for the Congress.
It may be mentioned that the HJC and the BJP were brought together to a common platform three years ago by 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 Kuldeep Bishnoi. However, equations have fast changed after the HJC failed to open its account in this summer's general elections.
As hectic parleys are on with Bishnoi calling on the BJP President Shah, reports suggest that the BJP wants to rewrite the seat-sharing agreement signed in 2011, and would yield only 18 seats to the HJC in the coming elections. Both the leaders are reported to be meeting again soon on the issue. Speculations are rife on even the likelihood of a BJP-INLD tie up in the state, which analysts feel could fetch around 75 seats to the alliance. The INLD, though, has already announced its first list of 62 candidates in the fray.