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Haryana: Will ‘Modi wave’ blur caste lines and see Khattar through

Google Oneindia News

New Delhi, Oct 17: The incumbent Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is a non-Jat CM of the state which is significant considering that Jat community constitutes about 29 per cent of state's population and the BJP has never performed well in Jat-dominated constituencies.

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 a few urban centres, caste has a strong influence on how ballots are cast.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar

In 2014, the Modi wave blurred the caste lines, and the BJP won 47 of the 90 seats in the last Haryana assembly elections. In the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, the BJP swept Haryana riding the Modi wave 2.0.

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    With the party winning all 10 seats in Haryana during the Lok Sabha elections 2019, the BJP seems confident of retaining Haryana. While the main contest is seen between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, other players in the poll ring include Indian National Lok Dal, Jannayak Janata Party - formed after a vertical split in INLD, BSP, AAP and Swaraj India party.

    The polls have come at a time when opposition parties in Haryana are in a disarray. INLD, formed by former deputy prime minister the late Devi Lal, has suffered a series of setbacks during the past one year after its split because of a feud in the Chautala family. Most of INLD's sitting MLAs and prominent leaders have switched over to the BJP ahead of polls.

    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.

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    Jat votes can make a difference, but...

    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.

    BJP has never performed well in Jat-dominated constituencies, therefore 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. The focus on the non-Jat castes is looking like a good plan for the BJP.

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    Advantages for BJP:

    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.

    In the October 2014 assembly polls, BJP was propelled to power in Haryana for the first time on its own after it recorded a dramatic surge in vote share that saw its tally zooming from four in 2009 to 47 in 2014 in the backdrop of a strong Modi wave. Later, it won one more seat in the by-poll to the Jind assembly seat. BJP's vote share had rocketed to 33.2 per cent from a meagre 9.05 per cent in 2009 assembly polls.

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