Jind, Haryana: After losing Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to the Congress in the December 2018 Assembly elections, the result of the Jind bypoll in Haryana on Thursday came as a shot in the arm for the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on the block, the Jind result has surely put other strong parties. including the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Congress, on the edge.
With the BJP's Krishan Middha defeating his closest rival Digvijay Singh Chautala of the Jannanyak Janta Party (JPP) by a margin of 12,935 votes, the saffron party has claimed its first every victory in the INLD stronghold. The results proved disastrous for the Congress, as the party's chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala could manage to get just 22,470 votes — less than half of Middha's 50,566 and over 15,000 short of Chautala's 37,631.
Moreover, the by-election result turned out to be a nightmare for INLD — a party that had previously won the Jind Assembly constituency two consecutive times — with its candidate Umed Redhu securing a meagre 3,454 votes.
Even though it was Krishan Middha's political debut, he took down influential Jat names like Digvijay Chautala and Randeep Surjewala. But the real winner in this contest was Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
Although he gave the credit of this victory to "corruption-free governance, fair recruitment and a clean political image", his masterstroke of bringing an INLD loyalist into the saffron fold cannot go unnoticed.
It all started with the ticket allotment, when Khattar gave preference to a newcomer rebel outsider over many of his old party colleagues, keeping the caste equation and Middha loyalists in mind. After the demise of sitting MLA Harish Chand Middha in August last year, which necessitated the by-election, fielding his son for the seat was the best move to gain sympathy votes.
Khattar and his ministers also managed to get some local powerful Khap/Jat leaders in BJP's favour, which helped them get an unexpectedly high number of votes from rural Jind for the first time.
The Jind bypoll result, which follow a massive victory for the BJP in the recently-held elections to five municipal corporations, are going to elevate Khattar's stature in the party in the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
Late Harish Chand Middha won the Jind constituency twice on an INLD ticket. But the party's abysmal performance — once of its worst ever — comes as a surprise as it was in the elections right after his death. Jind, which has been an INLD and Congress bastion for years, is looking at a close contest between four parties in the next Assembly elections.
Another reason behind the humiliating defeat of both INLD and Congress is the feud in the Chautala family that gave birth to the Jannanyak Janta Party (JJP), a breakaway faction of the INLD. When the INLD chief suspended his grandsons Dushyant and Digvijay from the party in October last year, he didn't realise the kind of politicians he had raised in his family. Within days, Dushyant launched the JJP and decided to field his younger brother Digvijay to take on INLD from the Jind constituency.
In Jind, there are 1.72 lakh voters, of which 1.30 lakh exercised their right in this by-election. There are about 48,000 Jat voters in this constituency and between 14,000 and 15,000 Brahmins, Punjabis and Vaishyas.
JJP, even after coming second in the final tally, gave a tough fight to the saffron brigade, especially in rural areas. After the third round of counting, Dushyant was leading the race in all rural areas, but the urban voters backed the BJP in the later rounds. A considerable difference of votes was expected between the BJP and JJP from urban areas, but JJP managed over 12,000 votes from seven rounds of counting in urban areas.
JJP even stole the show from the main Opposition party in the Haryana Assembly, giving the debutant a win-win position. The INLD's youth wing was already dented with Digvijay's departure, but with this by-election, the JJP also drew the INLD's traditional voters.
The young Chautala brothers, who allied with the Aam Admi Party, also proved that their JJP will not be a force to be reckoned with for just one seat. INLD and Congress can expect a tough competition in many constituencies in the next elections.
With a respected defeat and extraordinary performance in their very first election on the Assembly level, Dushyant and Digvijay have proved themselves as strong leaders and politicians who can lead the party and gather votes in absence their father, Anil Chautala.
Even BJP leaders have started believing that in the coming elections, the JJP will be their main competitor in many constituencies.
The author is a Chandigarh-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com
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Updated Date: Feb 01, 2019 08:26:15 IST