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Will Modi wave help Khattar retain power in Haryana?

By Vishal S

New Delhi, Sep 21: With the party winning all 10 seats in Haryana during the Lok Sabha elections 2019, the BJP seems confident of retaining Haryana. Haryana assembly has 90 seats and the BJP won 47 in 2014 and formed the government. The BJP ended 10 years rule of the Congress in 2014.

What will work more in favour of the BJP is that the Congress is a divided house in the state. While a majority of its 15 MLAs are with Hooda, there are other power centres too. Former state president Ashok Tanwar and Hooda remain sworn enemies and their mutual enmity has made it difficult for the party to challenge the BJP.

Manohar Lal Khattar

The BJP's top leadership surprised everyone by naming Manohar Lal Khattar, a first-time MLA, as the chief minister. Khatter was a full-time pracharak of the RSS for 14 years before moving to BJP in 1994.

The Election Commission today announced poll dates in Haryana. Assembly elections in Haryana will be held on October 21 and the counting of votes in the state will be taken up on October 24.

[Harayana, Maharashtra assembly elections 2019: Here's the schedule]

The BJP was propelled to power in Haryana by a dramatic surge in its vote share five years ago. 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.

Unemployment, youth, farmers, employees, water issues and alleged non-fulfilment of poll promises of the BJP are going to be some of the issues likely to be raised by the opposition. For the ruling party, transparency in governance, zero tolerance for corruption, giving jobs on merit, implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Haryana and achievements of state and central governments are going to be the poll issues. Scrapping of Article 370 is also likely to be raised by BJP in the run-up to the election.

[Haryana and UP hint at going the Assam way: Is NRC the new vote churner?]

The BJP is upbeat after its stupendous show in the 2019 general election, winning all the 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state. 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.

Abhay Singh Chautala is among only a handful of prominent leaders left in the party. Factionalism had marred Haryana Congress too, though with recent changes made in the state unit by the high command, the party leaders claim that is a thing of past and everyone is united to take on the BJP. In a bid to end factionalism, the Congress has named Kumari Selja chief of its state unit and appointed former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda the Congress Legislature Party leader, and Kiran Choudhary head of its election manifesto committee.

AAP, JJP and BSP are fighting the polls independently. JJP's alliance with BSP collapsed earlier this month. For the BJP, Chief Minister M L Khattar claims his party will comfortably cross 75 seats.

Asked with whom he sees his party's contest, Khattar said, "The entire opposition is in a disarray, but on some individual seats there will be contest."

"In Garhi Sampla Kiloi (a seat held by B S Hooda), the fight will be against Congress. In Ellenabad (Abhay Chautala's seat), it will be against INLD, and likewise on some seats against JJP or Independents," he said.

[Khattar wants NRC in Haryana]

He said the BJP is "strong on all 90 seats" and will finalise its candidates before the nomination process begins. However, finalising candidates may be an uphill task for BJP as it faces a problem of plenty with several leaders from the opposition camp joining the saffron outfit. "Prospective candidates may be many, but in the end only 90 are going to get tickets," Khattar said.

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 bypoll to the Jind assembly seat. BJP's vote share had rocketed to 33.2 per cent from a meager 9.05 per cent in 2009 assembly polls. It had been playing the second fiddle to regional parties, including INLD, in Haryana until then. In the outgoing assembly, INLD has 19 legislators, but two of its MLAs died and several switched over to BJP. Congress has a strength of 17, BSP one, independents five and SAD has one member.

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