Haryana civic polls: What the results mean for BJP, Congress and AAP

In 2019, the BJP survived a scare in Haryana after it fell short of the majority mark in the assembly elections. It entered into a post-poll alliance with the newly formed Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) and formed the government. A year later, massive protests broke out against the now withdrawn farm laws. Though the protests were mostly led by farmers from Punjab, parts of Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh were also impacted. Many political analysts had almost written off the Manohar Lal Khattar government from Haryana. But then came the urban body elections in the state on June 19, the results of which provided a big boost to the BJP. It won 22 of the 46 municipal councils and committees, while its ally JJP won three. The Aam Aadmi Party opened its account, and so did the decaying Indian National Lok Dal, while 19 civic bodies went to Independents. The faction-ridden Congress that failed to put up candidates on its party symbol, is now claiming that all the 19 Independents were backed by them. 

So what do the results mean for the BJP, Congress and AAP? 

Impact of farmers’ protests dying down? 

Many will argue that municipal elections do not reflect the mood of the rural electorate. However, it cannot be denied that many urban voters have rural connections and several smaller towns are dependent on farm economy. In fact, the farmers’ protests had received huge support in urban areas. 

In this context, it can be said that the BJP has managed to regain some lost ground. It had lost the Baroda and Ellenabad bypolls held during the farmers agitation to the Congress and INLD respectively. The BJP’s spirited performance in the municipal elections forced even the Opposition to allege that the state government intentionally delayed the polls to buy more time so as to stimy the impact of farmers’ protests. 

The BJP’s victory in Uttar Pradesh and massive infighting in Congress ranks in Haryana also enthused the cadre to take the fight to the Opposition camp. The saffron camp won 12 of the 28 municipal committees and 10 of the 18 municipal councils, including Jhajjar and Bahadurgarh in Jhajjar district – a bastion of former chief minister and Congress strongman Bhupinder Singh Hooda. 

The Congress bettered its performance in Haryana in the 2019 assembly elections, but it faces the problem of plenty. The state unit has several big names, all of whom are not influential beyond their districts, but harbouring chief ministerial ambitions. These include Hooda in Rohtak, Kuldeep Bishnoi in Hisar, Kumari Selja in Ambala and Randeep Surjewala in Kaithal. 

In April, former Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar joined the AAP. Ahead of the 2019 assembly elections, he had clashed with Hooda over ticket distribution, and subsequently left the Congress. More recently, the Congress’s move to appoint Hooda loyalist Udai Bhan as state unit president did not go down well with Bishnoi who was eyeing the post. A miffed Bishnoi even cross-voted in favour of the BJP in the recent Rajya Sabha elections.

This infighting is preventing Congress from boosting its organisational structure at the ground level. So much so that the party did not even contest the municipal elections on its party symbol. Senior Congress leaders remained absent from campaigning as well. Unless the party puts its house in order, this factionalism will plague it in future elections as well.  

 

The power struggle in Congress has provided AAP an opportunity to influence Haryana’s political domain. It even opened its account by winning a small municipality (Ismailabad) in Kaithal district. However, for a party that rules neighbouring Delhi and Punjab, its expectations of huge gains remained a distant dream even when Congress officially wasn’t in the race. 

AAP had contested the 2019 assembly elections in Haryana as well, but flopped badly. This time, however, by attracting prominent leaders from other parties and by contesting on its party symbol, it is ensuring a committed band of volunteers for future contests.

 

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Atul Tiwari

Atul Tiwari

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