Jind bypolls: Why this by-election in Haryana has become an all-out battle for political parties?

The Jind bypoll has turned into a four-cornered prestige battle between BJP, Congress, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Jannayak Janata Party (JJP)

FP Staff January 28, 2019 15:12:16 IST
Jind bypolls: Why this by-election in Haryana has become an all-out battle for political parties?
  • The bypoll was necessitated after the death of INLD legislator Hari Chand Midha in August, 2018

  • A total of 21 candidates are in fray for the polls

  • Nearly 1.7 lakh people are eligible to vote

All major political parties seem to be slugging it out against each other for victory in the Jind bypolls that took place on Monday. A small city in heartland Haryana, Jind by-election is being taken as a litmus test by parties contesting in the Haryana Assembly elections and the Lok Sabha polls later this year. What seemed like another bypoll, the Jind elections has turned into a four-cornered prestige battle between BJP, Congress, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Jannayak Janata Party (JJP). While the BJP has fielded Krishan Midha, Randeep Surjewala is fighting for the Congress, Umed Singh Redhu of the INLD and Digvijay Chautala as an Independent backed by the Jannayak Janata party (JJP).

Jind bypolls Why this byelection in Haryana has become an allout battle for political parties

Representational image. AFP

The bypoll was necessitated after the death of INLD legislator Hari Chand Midha in August 2018. A total of 21 candidates are in fray for the polls, including two women, and nearly 1.7 lakh people are eligible to vote.

The desperate attempts and careful plotting of candidates by political parties only highlights the high-voltage confrontation between factions. Interesting to note that former INLD legislator Hari Chand's son Krishan Midha is fighting on a BJP ticket. Krishan represents the Punjabi-Brahmin community in the region, which is predominantly a Jat-dominated constituency. It is to be noted that no Jat leader has won this Assembly seat since 1972 and there are about 12,000 voters each of the Brahmin and Punjabi communities.

The Congress has an equally interesting candidature. All eyes turned on the party when it announced the name of senior leader Surjewala, who is also the head of the AICC communication department. Surjewala, a sititng MLA from Kaithal, had defeated former chief minister OP Chautala from Narwana in 2005 and will now be locked in a contest against his grandson Digvijay Chautala.

Surjewala's name came amidst speculations of in-fighting within the party with a faction supporting former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda as the chief minister probable for the upcoming Assembly elections. Surjewala, initially reticent, was pushed by the party in the lack of any other leader who could give BJP and the newly-launched JJP a strong fight.

On the other hand, an NDTV report had also talked about how Surjewala's nomination brought about a "rare unity" among Congress' top leaders, including Hooda, state party chief Ashok Tanwar, late chief minister Bhajan Lal's son Kuldeep Bishnoi, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhary and party MP Kumari Selja who had actively campaigned for him.

Going beyond the two big guns are the two regional parties fighting for leadership and popularity — Chautala family-led INLD and its breakaway faction JJP, headed by MP Dushyant Chautala. Tapping on the large number of Jat votes, both INLD and JJP has nominated Redhu, a local Jat leader who is also backed by a faction of the prominent Kandela Khap ( a caste council), and Digvijay, another Jat leader. Both candidates are first-timers. The JJP got a boost when Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced its support to the party, even addressing a rally on Saturday. According to a News18 report, the 11,000-strong Baniya community in Jind city could become the deciding factor in tilting votes in favor of Digvijay and change the tide of the bypoll.

The cancellation of INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala's three-week furlough from Tihar jail recently on a Delhi-government directive was perhaps an indication of Kejriwal's strong backing to JJP in the run up to the polls. The directive led to a verbal duel between the warirng Chautala factions with Om Prakash hitting back at grandsons Dushyant and Digvijay, accusing them of "back-stabbing" him and "conspiring" with AAP to keep him out of the campaigning.

The strong contenders, in-fighting within parties and a neck-to-neck fight has given a dramatic twist to the Jind bypoll, thought to be a poll forecast for the Lok Sabha elections.

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