Haryana:With Hooda at helm, Cong eyes Jat consolidation

Haryana:With Hooda at helm, Cong eyes Jat consolidation

Bhupinder Singh Hooda

After projecting former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda as its face in the upcoming assembly elections, Congress is trying to consolidate the powerful Jat community by inducting leaders from the already splintered Indian National Lok Dal.

Hooda's return from a virtual political oblivion since losing the Assembly elections in 2014 has turned the Congress into a favoured party for Jats, who have been pushed to the margins after the BJP managed to unite the non-Jat communities to rule for the last five years.

On Sunday evening, Ashok Arora, the former state president of INLD, joined the Congress with atleast half-a-dozen party leaders in tow. Also to join the Congress was Jai Prakash, an Independent MLA who wields influence in the Jind, Kaithal and Hisar districts in the region.

By appointing veteran leader Kumari Selja as the Haryana unit chief, the Congress also signalled its intention to reach out to scheduled caste voters in the state who had deserted the party in favour of the BJP.

In Haryana, Jats form 27% of the state's population, while non-Jats – Brahmins, scheduled castes, Sikhs constitute 73% of the population. The scheduled castes are the second influential community comprising almost 20% of the state's population.

Hooda and Selja have embarked on a joint campaign in the state having covered Delhi's satellite towns of Faridabad and Gurgaon on Sunday, signalling unity in the faction-ridden state unit of the party.

In the last 53 years, Jat community has given five out of the 10 chief ministers to the state, while Bhajan Lal dominated the non-Jat space before incumbent Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar emerged on the political scene.

Congress is also learnt to have a tacit understanding with Mayawati's BSP, which has announced that it would contest all the 90 seats in the state, a move aimed at splitting the scheduled castes vote that otherwise could have gone to the BJP.