While the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party in Haryana on Thursday began its election campaign with Chief Minister Manohar Lal’s roadshow in Ballabhgarh amid great pomp and show, the opposition parties—Congress and Indian National Lok Dal—are still struggling to put their respective house in order even as the Lok Sabha polls have been announced.
The state unit of Congress is plagued by factionalism and infighting whereas the INLD is showing no signs of revival with continuous exodus of its senior party leaders to the rivals’ camp following party’s split and formation of Jannayak Janta Party last year.
The Congress and INLD, seen as major players in Haryana, did not perform well in 2014 polls and had to be content with just one and two seats respectively out of 10 Lok Sabha (LS) seats in Haryana.
Both the parties had repeated their lackluster performance in assembly polls later that year when the BJP had managed to perform exceedingly well and made its maiden government in Haryana.
After its humiliating defeat in assembly polls when the party was reduced to only 15 seats, even losing the status of main opposition party to the INLD in the State Assembly, the Congress state unit had been witnessing factional fights with the party leaders speaking in different tones and often attacking each other in public.
The differences between former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Congress state chief Ashok Tanwar isn’t a secret and Hooda faction has in the past five years made numerous attempts to dislodge Tanwar from the state party leadership.
The Congress high command had in the past few months made efforts to end infighting in the faction-ridden Haryana Congress and had been holding meetings with state party leaders. While Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had earlier this week met senior leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, AICC general secretary incharge of Haryana, Ghulam Nabi Azad has also held meetings with state party leaders to gauge the situation and assuage leaders in different factions.
The party central leadership is also treading cautiously on formation of Lok Sabha polls related committees in Haryana Congress amid unresolved issues in the state party unit. While the party’s poll committees have been announced for neighboring states such as Punjab and Himachal, the Congress is yet to announce the Haryana Pradesh Election Committee and other LS poll preparedness committees in the state.
Not only this, the senior party leaders of Haryana are yet to sit together to chalk out an election strategy even as the general elections 2019 have been announced. While party chief Ashok Tanwar have been holding meetings with party office bearers to draw a plan for LS election, Hooda camp, which had been skipping Tanwar’s meetings since long, continuous to remain oblivious of such campaign plans.
Both Tanwar and Hooda had been holding separate functions and party meetings since more than two years now. CLP Leader Kiran Choudhry and senior leader Randeep Surjewala had also been holding separate public meetings in the state.
Commenting on infighting in Haryana Congress, party state chief Ashok Tanwar while talking to The Pioneer said that there is a space for difference of opinion in Congress.
The differences among the party leaders in state unit is not a serious issue and we all have one goal, which is to defeat BJP and INLD in the elections, he said.
On delay in announcement of poll related committees for state party unit, Tanwar said since, LS election in Haryana is pushed to sixth phase, the committees will be announced in sometime.
But our party workers are already working hard to reach out to the voters of Haryana, he added.
Like Congress, another opposition party -Indian National Lok Dal- is also trying to make a comeback in the state.
After 2014 polls, the recent Jind bypoll and civic body polls in Haryana had also brought bad news for the Congress and INLD.
The BJP had registered victory in both civic body polls and Jind bypolls. The Congress and INLD, on the other hand, had faced humiliating defeat securing third and fifth spot in Jind bypolls.
The INLD’s popularity has been declining after the formation of its splinter group Jannayak Janta Party headed by Ajay Chautala and his sons. While INLD’s chief OP Chautala had last month undertaken a statewide tour to meet party leaders and workers to keep his flock together and strengthen the party ahead of LS polls, the exodus of leaders from the party continues in the state.
Out of 17 MLAs of INLD in the State Assembly, four have joined the JJP while there is speculation that prominent INLD leaders are in touch with other political parties and plans to leave the party before polls.
After the split, the political fortunes of the INLD have taken a hit and it was evident in the Jind bypoll, where the INLD had not failed to retain its Jind assembly seat, which it had won in 2009 and 2014 polls, but also ended up behind the candidates of JJP, Congress and Loktantra Suraksha Party in the bypoll.
INLD’s chief OP Chautala elder son- Ajay Singh Chautala -is patron of the JJP while his two sons – Hisar MP Dushyant and Digvijay -- are spearheading the party in his absence.
Both OP Chautala and Ajay are serving a 10-year jail term in Tihar Jail in connection with the teachers recruitment scam in Haryana.
The INLD is likely to go it alone in the polls after Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party had broken its ten-month old alliance with the former and had joined hands with Loktantra Suraksha Party (LSP) of BJP rebel MP Raj Kumar Saini.
Looking for an alliance partner to contest polls, OP Chautala had recently expressed willingness to form an alliance with the BJP but the saffron party had rejected the offer. On election strategy for LS polls, INLD Haryana party chief Ashok Arora said that the party has convened a meeting of its national and state executive committee on March 16 in Jhajjar.
The party will chalk out its election strategy for Lok Sabha polls and all hold discussion on probable candidates for the parliamentary seats in Haryana, Arora said while adding that we are hopeful to perform well in the polls. In 2019 LS polls, the state will witness a multi-cornered electoral fight with BJP, Congress, INLD, JJP, Aam Aadmi Party, BSP-LSP alliance in the fray. The BJP had in 2014 managed to win seven of the 10 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 in Haryana while in 2009 it had failed to win any seat.