Haryana: BJP's strategy to polarise non-Jat votes

 Haryana Chief Minister (2nd R) along with Union minister and senior BJP leader Narendra Singh Tomar, UP CM Yogi Adityanath and party leader Anil Jain waves at supporters during a rally before filing his nomination papers, in Karnal. (PTI Photo)

BJP’s election strategy to polarise non-Jat votes in Jat dominated Haryana became evident with about 79% non-Jats included in the list released on Monday. 

While the party claims its list is well-balanced with the inclusion of winnable candidates, the saffron party has further brought down the number of Jat leaders in the poll fray this time around by about 25% since last Assembly polls. In 2014, the BJP had fielded 24 Jat leaders against seventeen this time. 

Regardless of this, BJP leaders said that the electorate will vote for its development agenda pursued under its regime and chances of any counter-polarisation will be bleak. The party has retained all its Jat MLA’s who was later elevated as ministers in Khattar’s cabinet. 

Haryana has about 25% Jat votes. In the last five years, the state BJP tried to balance the caste-equation by having a non-Jat Punjabi, Manohar Lal Khattar as chief minister and a Jat leader, Subash Barala, as the state BJP president. The party is yet to release a list of remaining twelve candidates. Khattar was a first time MLA and handpicked by PM Modi to become the chief minister. In a state where Jat leaders have ruled as chief minister, Khattar was a non-Jat Punjabi coronated as CM after decades.  

Saffron party leaders maintained that the party has the support of both non-Jat and Jat voters. The principal Opposition party of 2014, the Chautala-led Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), lost its vote share badly after the split in the party owing to a family feud. Its vote share plunged from nearly 24% in 2014 to 1.89% in the recently held Lok Sabha elections. BJP’s share witnessed an upsurge from nearly 33% in the last Assembly polls to 58% in this year’s general elections. 

The sizable surge in saffron party’s vote share is indicative that the Jat votes, which were the traditional vote bank of the INLD, too got translated into saffron party’s votes. Barring the Jat candidates, most candidates fielded by the BJP are Scheduled Castes, Punjabi’s, Brahmins, Baniyas, OBCs, Gujjars, Yadav’s, Sikhs and Muslims.    

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