Haryana assembly elections: BJP's 'non-Jat' masterstroke in 2014
New Delhi, Oct 02: The caste factor plays an important part in almost every election in India. Though many argue that it has no relevance in the 21st century, the fact remains that apart from few urban centers, caste has a strong influence on how a ballot is cast.
With hardly 20 days left for polling in Haryana, it would be worthwhile to try and understand how caste equations matter in this northern state.
The incumbent Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is a non-Jat CM of the state and it is said that the BJP carefully worked towards consolidating non-Jat votes. This is significant considering that people belonging to the Jat community constitute about 29 percent of Haryana's population. As per the Election Commission's voter list, Jats are 25 percent.
It is interesting to note that, the BJP has never performed well in Jat-dominated constituencies. And the party changed its strategy to consolidate non-Jat voters. In 2014, the BJP did not go to polls with a CM face and during the campaigning phase, ML Khattar was literally a non-entity at the state level. It was only after the result was out and the BJP leadership went into a huddle with RSS top brass that Khattar was chosen. Khattar belongs to Punjabi Khatri caste.
Jats as a caste do not vote in a block, which means there has seldom been a party which has emerged as a choice for the community. Jats rally behind a popular Jat face who either be someone whose influence is confined to a region, or to a big leader who is popular across the state like former cm's Bansi Lal, Om Prakash Chautala and Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
In 2014, the Modi wave blurred the caste lines, the BJP won 47 of the 90 seats in the last Hayana assembly elections. In the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, the BJP swept Haryana riding the Modi wave 2.0. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar will contest from Karnal. The RSS man was a surprise pick for the chief minister's post in 2014
The BJP roughly has three advantages - the party has managed to combine non-Jat votes, the opposition is divided and bickering, and just a few months ago, the Modi-led party swept the state.
The other parties in the fray are Congress, INLD, JJP-AAP, BSP-LSP combine. After Khattar's win, the focus of on all the non-Jat castes is looking like a good plan. Dalits are also in large numbers but 'Dalit' is a collective term for a number of castes under the Schedule Castes. In the rural parts of Haryana, Khap panchayats may influence the voting
The principal challenger in the state, Congress, is split into factions. Congress is battling a rebellion of sorts as several leaders broke party line to back the BJP-led Central government on the Jammu and Kashmir bill and the move on Article 370. Congress leaders Janardan Dwivedi, Anil Shastri, Deependra Hooda, UP MLA Aditi Singh and Ranjeet Ranjan were among those who lauded the Centre's move to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcate the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.
Hooda, a prominent Jat face of Haryana, and state Congress chief Ashok Tanwar, a Dalit leader considered close to former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, have been sparring over several issues for years. The INLD has been going through rough times ever since the party split.A family feud within the Chautala family last year had led to a split in the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), with Ajay Singh Chautala and his son and former Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala founding the breakaway JJP.
Yadav population in Haryana is around 16% and caste wise are just behind Jats and Ahir or Yadavs. The Congress can make a comeback if they can fix the internal feud and cash on anti-incumbency.