Congress’s loss is BJP’s gain in Haryana as Birender Singh joins BJP

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Amit Shah with Birendra Singh
Ending his over four-decade association with the Congress, veteran party leader Chaudhary Birender Singh joined the BJP on Saturday in the presence of its chief Amit Shah at Jind rally. This is a major jolt to the ruling Congress in a state because as many as 40 small and big Congress leaders too joined the saffron party along with Singh. Singh coming into BJP-fold will further strengthen the party's hold in the state ahead of assembly elections due in October.

Why Birendra Singh left Congress?

Two days after he was suspended from the Congress for openly revolting against Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Singh (67), a Rajya Sabha MP, made his announcement of joining the BJP along with his supporters. His wife Prem Lata and close confidante Jagbir Malik, a former minister, also joined the saffron party.

Singh was unhappy with Congress leadership in Haryana and was opposed to CM Hooda's style of functioning in the state. The veteran leader and former Haryana Finance Minister had alleged that, "Congress in Haryana is no longer the party it used to be. It has now become Hooda's Congress."

"The path I have chosen for myself will help strengthen the BJP in Haryana in the next 15 years," Singh was quoted as saying.

Also, Singh is one of the leaders in the Haryana Congress who was never given his due. Despite working for decades and party's face among Jats, who are very crucial vote bank for any party to become a front runner in the state, the former CWC member was never acknowledged for his contribution towards the party.

Singh joining hands with rival BJP has come as another jolt to Congress in Haryana which has faced a series of desertions in the election year. And Singh knows that joining hands with the BJP, which had won seven out of ten Lok Sabha seats from Haryana, is an advantageous deal.

BJP's gain

The rebel Congress leader is a seasoned politician and a very popular Jat face in Haryana's politics. Hence, Singh enjoys a huge voter base amongst Jat voters in the Jatland.

Singh has the potential of converting the voters' support into votes at the time of election for his party.

Singh’s influence would help BJP win maximum seats in Jat bastions

As per experts, Singh's induction into the BJP will be a huge boost for the party as his name will give an additional 10 seats to the BJP. Let's say if the BJP was getting 30 seats on its own in Haryana, Singh's name would earn the party at least 10 more seats, thus taking the party's tally to 40 seats in the 90-member Assembly.

Singh's influence would ensure the BJP wins almost every assembly seat in Jat strongholds like Jind, Kaithal and Hissar.

Reason for Singh's popularity?

Singh has been in Haryana's politics for more than four decades. He has been a minister in Congress governments in the state. That is why he has developed his foothold in the region.

Also, the leader is a grandson of Choudhary Chhotu Ram who is biggest farmers' leader in Haryana, till date. Hence, farmers and Jats are always loyal to Singh due to his descent.

Singh had earlier while hitting out at Hooda, alleged that, "Congress in Haryana is no longer the party it used to be. It has now become Hooda's Congress."

Challenges for the BJP

Singh's inclusion in the party fold would also be a challenge for Amit Shah as how to manage these new big names without hurting the sentiments of old names in the party. Given his stature in the Congress and his popularity in the state politics Birendra Singh would surely influence the party's decision making process in Haryana and this might not please the older names in the party. Hence, Shah will have to be very cautious while maintaining a balance between the two.

Second challenge that the party chief might face is clash for being projected as BJP's Chief Ministerial candidate. Singh being a very prominent and seasoned politician would want to be projected as CM candidate who might face competition from the likes of Rao Inderjeet Singh, a Union Minister in Narendra Modi's cabinet, and Captain Abhimanyu, party's former national spokesperson.

Abhimanyu has not found a place in Amit Shah's recent team this hints that the party has chosen something bigger for its most popular name in Haryana.

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