Both BJP and Cong vie for non-Jat votes

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Both BJP and Cong vie for non-Jat votes

Sunday, 06 October 2019 | MANOJ KUMAR | Chandigarh

Amidst apprehensions of a Jat vs non-Jat divide in Haryana, both BJP and Congress have reduced the number of tickets to Jat candidates this time compared to the 2014 Assembly polls.

Caste equations have always been considered to be important and the X-factor in shaping the poll outcomes int he state in recent past. While around 28 percent of total electorate in Haryana are Jats, the remaining 75 percent are non-Jats, which include Dalits, Brahmins, Yadavs, Gurjars, Baniyas, Rajputs among others.

All political parties in the State have carefully worked-out caste arithmetic while picking candidates to win the maximum Assembly seats.

If we study the ticket distribution list of all the 90 candidates of both the parties, the Congress and BJP have tried to give a better representation to other castes as part of social engineering in this Assembly election.

Both parties are fearing that the divide, wider after violence during the Jat reservation stir in 2016 and conspicuous during the Lok Sabha poll earlier this year, will be a deciding factor in the State Assembly poll.

The ruling BJP in Haryana led by a non-Jat chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar has played to its strength by increasing the number of tickets to non-Jat candidates.

Surprisingly, the Congress has also marginally reduced the number of Jat candidates this time. Both the parties have tried to give a better representation to other castes as part of social engineering.

In Haryana, which is witnessing a multi-cornered contest with BJP, Congress, INLD, JJP, AAP, Swaraj India, BSP, LSP and other regional parties, flexing muscles to win the 2019 Assembly polls, it will be interesting to see which political party have  set the caste equation right.

The Congress, which has again trusted in Bhupinder Singh Hooda, a Jat, has fielded more Jat candidates than the BJP. The ruling party, fighting under the leadership of Manohar Lal Khattar, a Punjabi, has fielded more Punjabi candidates than the Congress.

The ticket distribution figures of both the parties revealed that the BJP has given representation to 20 Jats and one Jat Sikh. In 2014, the party had fielded 24 Jats and one Jat Sikh.

On the other hand, from Congress, there are 26 Jats and three Jat Sikhs . In 2014, the party had fielded 28 Jats and three Jat Sikhs.  According to rough estimates, Haryana has around 28 per cent Jats. The Jat reservation agitation violence in 2016 had led to 30 deaths and targeting of properties of non-Jats.

Political observers said that the divide between Jats and non-Jats benefits the BJP. They point out that Congress this time is simply following the BJP in ticket distribution.

The number of Punjabi candidates of Congress has gone down from eight in 2014 to three in 2019. The figure of Brahmin and Bania candidates has remained static at five.

The BJP has nine Punjabi candidates, up from eight in 2014. There are nine Banias and seven Brahmins in the saffron party’s list. In 2014, there were eight Banias and nine Brahmins.

The number of Muslims in the Congress list increased from four in 2014 to six this time. BJP has fielded two Muslims this time, same as in 2014.

In 2014, the Congress had fielded 18 OBCs, with eight Gujjars and six Ahirs. This time, there are 20 OBCs, with six Gujjars and Ahirs each.

The BJP has fielded 18 OBCs, with six Gujjars and five Ahirs. In 2014, it had fielded 14 OBCs. Both parties have fielded 17 SCs each from reserved constituencies, like in 2014.

Another Haryana watcher said that it is no secret that the state is bitterly divided on caste lines following the violent Jat reservation agitation 2016 and the Jat vs non-Jat divide will play a key role in the Assembly elections. In the agrarian milieu of Haryana, Jats are counted as the dominant vote bank constituting about 28 percent of state’s population and stated to have always polarised behind a favoured Jat leader in the maze of state politics, he said, adding barring northern Haryana, the Jats have strongholds everywhere.

Their strength is particularly high in central Haryana, which includes Rohtak. They also have a significant presence in Rohtak, Jhajjar, Hisar, Bhiwani, Jind, Sirsa and Sonepat. Jats are usually seen as electing or overthrowing Jat leaders. Former chief minister O P Chautala was voted out by Jats. Hooda’s fall is now being attributed to Jat votes outside of Rohtak and Jhajjar.

He further said that in 2014 Assembly election, areas with a high Jat population went against the BJP, yet it came to power. Of 37 seats where Jats number over 25 per cent, the BJP won only nine while the Congress bagged 12 and the INLD 11. The inference is that the BJP successfully consolidated the non-Jat vote, winning 38 of the 53 seats where Jats number 25 per cent or lower.

As per the election trends, the Jat vote bank has traditionally voted for the Congress and rival Indian National Lok Dal.  After INLD’s split, its splinter group Jannayak Janta Party is further segregating the Jat votes.

On the other hand, the ruling BJP, which has in the previous elections proved that non-Jat voters can be kingmakers, is primarily focusing on consolidation of this vote bank in its favour.

In the past, former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, a non-Jat had managed to become a potential non-Jat option for the voters but now, the BJP has been trying to capture the non-Jat space in Haryana under Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who belongs to Punjabi community.

A Haryana based political analyst feels that the caste politics will play a key role during State Assembly elections, with the state of Haryana, bitterly divided on caste lines following the violent Jat quota agitation 2016.

They say that with the dominant Jat community unhappy with the ruling party due to their unfulfilled demands, the BJP has fielded candidates focusing on cobbling together other castes including Dalits, Brahmins, Ahirs, Gujjars, Baniyas among others to win the polls in Haryana.

With opposition not united in Haryana and Jat votes remaining divided, it would be interesting to see how the non-Jat social engineering work in the elections this time, the political observer says.

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