BY VISHAL GULATI
Chandigarh, Oct 15 (IANS) Riding against social engineering trends, both prominent parties in agrarian Haryana — the ruling BJP and the Congress — in the October 21 Assembly polls have set eyes on non-Jat votes despite land-owning class, the Jats, comprising 28 per cent of the states population.
The ruling BJP, led by non-Jat Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, has put stakes more on non-Jat candidates not only to ensure its smooth sail for the second consecutive term but also landmark win by crossing the 75 plus mark in the 90-member assembly.
So is, the Congress that too has marginally reduced the number of Jat candidates this time, but fairly higher than its arch rival the BJP. Its saving grace is also that its de facto chief ministerial candidate Bhupinder Hooda is a Jat.
They are largely banking on other castes — Punjabis (eight per cent), Brahmins (7.5 per cent), Ahirs (5.14 per cent), Vaish (five per cent), Gujjars (3.35 per cent), Jat Sikhs (4 per cent), Rajputs (3.4 per cent), Meos and Muslims (3.8 per cent) and Bishnoi (0.7 per cent).
The Scheduled Castes constitute 21 per cent of the population, the second highest after the Jats.
The BJP has fielded 20 Jats (22.2 per cent) — four less than the last 2014 Assembly elections.
One Jat Sikh, nine Punjabis, eight Vaishs, one Bishnoi, eight Brahmins, six Ahirs, five Gujjars, two Meos, six from the backward classes, four Rajputs, two Rors and 18 Scheduled Castes out of 17 reserved seats are in the fray as the saffron party candidates.
The Congress has given tickets to 26 Jats (28.8 per cent) this time, two less than the previous assembly polls.
It has given tickets to six Ahirs, six Gujjars, five Vaishs and Brahmins each, four Punjabis, three Rajputs, six Muslims, three Jat Sikhs, two Bishnois, six from backward classes and 17 scheduled caste candidates.
Notably, the Congress has increased its candidates belonging to backward classes, Rajputs and Bishnois to strengthen its vote-bank in comparison to Punjabi electorates, whose big chunk has been consolidated in favour of Khattar, state’s first-time Punjabi incumbent, a political observer told IANS.
In 2014, the Congress and the BJP had fielded eight and nine Punjabi candidates, respectively.
Other than the Jat candidates, the saffron party has reposed more faith on Gujjars, Rajputs, Bishnois and backward classes.
By projecting non-Jat leader Khattar as chief ministerial candidate, the BJP is eyeing to strengthen its vote bank with a division between Jats and non-Jats electorates. Since the Muslim does not hold the key to tilt scales, it is a win-win situation for the BJP, a fellow with the Department of Political Science of Panjab University in Chandigarh told IANS.
For the Congress the impact could be seen largely in Jat-dominated seats of Rohtak, Sonipat, Bhiwani and Hisar, he added.
Political experts believe it may be a double whammy for the BJP.
First, the state BJP government is facing anti-incumbency as it is banking more on national issues than its own development. Secondly, the Jat quota remains a major issue in the election where caste equation has played a determining role in each poll.
The Jats, a land-owning class, blame the BJP government for not defending their demand for 10 per cent quota in jobs strongly in the Supreme Court that set aside that provision.
Traditionally, they are favouring the Congress and the Om Prakash Chautala-led Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) more than the BJP.
“Splitting of the INLD in two outfits owing to the family dispute and the fissures within the Congress may somehow help the BJP overcome its loss mainly due to farm distress and lack of jobs,” a political observer told IANS.
In the patriarchal state of Haryana, the ‘Deras’ also wield considerable influence.
They are led by self-styled godmen Rampal and Gurmeet Ram Rahim, both behind bars, and they have mass followers.
Only time will tell that whether consolidation of non-Jat votes at the sake of the Jats by the BJP and the Congress will manage either of them to return to the Assembly on October 24 when the ballots are counted.
(Vishal Gulati can be reached at [email protected])