Blistering Battle for Haryana

Mala Jay

The political temperature in Haryana is as high as the scorching heat of the day.  Mercifully the Election Commission has not broken up the election schedule into installments and voting for the all the ten Lok Sabha constituencies will be held on a single day, May 12.   

But that does not make it any easier for the candidates because the 44 degree day temperatures actually feel like 45 or more because of the arid, dusty terrain and the undercurrent of antagonism that seems more pronounced in a State which is sandwiched between Punjab, UP and Delhi and never gets the kind of media coverage that its neighbours do.   

Despite having the fifth highest per capita income in the country, despite boasting of ultra-modern cities like Gurgaon, despite contributing 65 per cent of India’s basmati rice exports,  producing 50 per cent of tractors,  60 per cent of motorcycles and 87 per cent of cars,  and in spite of being the fastest-growing Information Technology hub, Haryana always feels like it does not get the respect and recognition it deserves.

A new breed of young politicians has set out to change all that.  All the various parties in the fray have a fair share of dynamic and articulate leaders young and old -  Deepender Hooda,  Ashok Tanwar,  Kumari Selja,  Shruti Chaudhary,  Brijender Singh, Rao Inderjit Singh, Dushyant Chautala,  Arjun Chautala,  Mahender Chauhan,  Jai Bhagwan Sharma – to name but a few. 

Four-cornered contests have added to the fierceness of the fight with Aam Admi Party tie-up with JJP and the badly divided Indian National Lok Dal complicating the prospects of BJP and Congress and making predictions of the outcome beyond easy guesses.

Many mega-rallies have already been held by national heavyweights of major parties despite the blistering heat but clarity in the clash between the Duryodhans and Arjunas is yet to emerge. 

One candidate who seems to have his fingers on the pulse of the election dynamics is Ashok Tanwar who is standing from Sirsa reserved constituency. 

This is not surprising because he is the president of the Haryana Congress and is considered a confidante of party chief Rahul Gandhi.  He is moreover related by marriage to the well-known family of India's ninth President Dr.  Shankar Dayal Sharma and is Ajay Maken’s brother-in-law. 

In his media interactions,  Ashok Tanwar reveals his insight into key election issues and provides clues to behind-the-scenes equations and calculations which are useful while assessing the overall scenario not just in Haryana but nationally too.  

Asked about whether there is any Modi wave in 2019,  Tanwar is blunt -  that was just a passing fever (bimari) that infected voters in 2014 but this time the BJP has been exposed, especially because of the Prime Minister’s false promises and his government’s anti-farmer and anti-poor policies.

Regarding why the Congress rejected an alliance with AAP, he says Arvind Kejriwal’s insistence on seat sharing with the Congress both in Delhi and Haryana was over-ambitious and somewhat suspicious.  It might have made sense in the seven seats of Delhi but all the Congress leaders in Haryana had unanimously rejected the idea at the very outset. Kejriwal was well aware of that, just as he knew that Capt Amrinder Singh of Punjab was totally against it.   

By making it a sticking point, the AAP leader was obviously playing some devious game of his own, which the Congress did not want any part of because Rahul Gandhi is ready for poll understandings with parties that could be trusted, not those who had some future secret agenda.  

About unity within the Haryana Congress, Ashok Tanwar said all issues have been sorted out between the factions and all the leaders are contesting elections in different constituencies unitedly for each other.  His relationship with seniors like Bhupinder Hooda was very warm and he was looking forward to the former chief minister campaigning in Sirsa, which had once been the home turf of the Chautala family but was no longer so. 

On broader issues of caste politics, the Haryana PCC president provided a perspective of the social divide in the State as well as the country.  It is BJP’s “Gujarat model” to deliberately divide society and fan religious and caste suspicions.  Haryana had suffered because of this in the past but the people have realized the BJP’s design and this time all the 36 ‘biradaris’ leaning towards the Congress for a united society.

In Haryana, Tanwar says,  the BJP is still banking dividing the caste votes especially between Jats and non-Jats and on false nationalism, whereas the Congress’s main thrust is on the minimum income guarantee scheme—NYAY which will help in eradicating poverty.  

The NYAY concept, Tanwar says, is a game-changer and has clicked with the public.  The other pledge is loan waiver for farmers, as has already been done in the Congress-ruled states.

May 10, 2019

Mala Jay [email protected]

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