Two elections, fluctuating fortunes in Haryana

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI photo)

Two elections just months apart in 2019 threw up dramatically different results in Haryana for the ruling BJP.

The Bharatiya Janata Party made a clean sweep in May’s Lok Sabha polls, winning all 10 parliamentary constituencies in the state. But in the assembly polls in October it could not even muster a majority on its own.

Its “Mission 75”, to win that many seats in the 90-member, fell flat. Among the BJP losers were eight Haryana ministers.

The biggest gainer was the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), with which the BJP forged a post-poll alliance to form a coalition government, giving Manohar Lal Khattar his second term as chief minister.

JJP leader Dushyant Chautala (31), grandson of former chief minister O P Chautala, emerged as kingmaker, with his party, which had broken away from the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in 2018, doing much better than the parent outfit.

Now sharing power in the state, the new party seemed to have appropriated the legacy of former deputy prime minister Devi Lal, who had founded the INLD.

For the Congress too, it has been a year of mixed fortunes.

In the Lok Sabha elections, even stalwarts like former Union minister Kumari Selja, former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, then state unit chief Ashok Tanwar and three-time MP Deepender Singh Hooda bit the dust.

But it improved its tally in the assembly polls, emerging as the second-largest party with 31 seats against the BJP’s 40.

Compared to just 17 seats in the previous House, it was a morale-boosting performance. Briefly, the Congress appeared to toy with the idea of staking its claim to power, but with 10 JJP MLAs choosing to go with the BJP, it didn’t stand a chance.

Just weeks before the Vidhan Sabha polls, Haryana Congress faced turbulence.

Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who had virtually threatened to quit the party, was placated by being made the legislature party leader. Former Union minister Kumari Selja replaced Ashok Tanwar as the state unit chief.

Tanwar was miffed and quit the Congress, just three weeks before October 21 assembly polls.

The decimation of the INLD was complete. The party drew a blank in the Lok Sabha polls and Abhay Singh Chautala was the only one to win the assembly elections.

In any case, during the run-up to Vidhan Sabha polls, a majority of the INLD MLAs and prominent leaders had switched over to the BJP, the Congress or the JJP.

During the year, Bhupinder Singh Hooda faced the heat from central agencies.

In August, the Enforcement Directorate filed its first charge sheet over alleged irregularities in land allotment to the Congress-promoted Associated Journals Limited (AJL) in Panchkula, naming Hooda and veteran party leader Motilal Vora.

The Khattar government disappointed sportspersons, who often bring it laurels at national and international events. In June, a controversy broke out after it scrapped a state-level function to present awards.

It decided to transfer the cash prize directly into their accounts. The government reasoned that nearly 3,000 players were to be honoured and it was not possible to do so in a day.

Towards the year-end, the state government held an international Gita festival, now an annual feature that showcases the scripture as well as Kurukshetra, where the event is held.

Senior bureaucrat Ashok Khemka too remained in the news – he faced yet another transfer, the 53rd in his career in November.

The 1991-batch IAS officer wrote to Khattar, saying while "pliable" officials flourish the honest ones are given insignificant roles. 

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