BY VISHAL GULATI
Chandigarh, Sep 27 (IANS) The BJP, which is aiming to retain power in Haryana, has a problem of plenty in terms of potential candidates for the upcoming Assembly polls, mainly because it has been a recipient of several ‘turncoats.
The party, that had won 47 seats in the last elections to the 90-member Assembly and formed the government in the state for the first time, is targeting 75-plus seats in the October 21 elections.
However, it is faced with a peculiar situation — too many ‘deserving candidates’, more than the number of assembly seats. Its ‘open arm’ policy has led to influx of sorts from the rival political parties.
Over the last five years, 25 per cent of the total legislators shifted loyalties and now many of them, who joined the BJP, are vying for party tickets, despite the presence of old-time loyalists.
Legislators and other leaders from opposition parties have been flocking the BJP amidst the Modi wave which is sweeping the nation.
The Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) have suffered setbacks, with at least 30 of their leaders, including sitting and former MPs and legislators, joining the ruling BJP.
At least 10 of INLD’s 19 MLAs switched over to the BJP over the last five years.
Besides, four of the five Independent legislators also shifted their loyalties to the saffron party.
Two prominent leaders of opposition parties joined the BJP Just hours before the announcement of elections on September 21.
They are, Dura Ram, a former legislator who served as a Parliamentary Secretary in the Congress government from 2005 to 2009, and Ram Pal Majra, a senior INLD leader, joined the BJP.
Political observers say this time the contest between the BJP and the Congress is more or less one-sided as the former won all the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana earlier this year, a first in the state’s electoral history.
The BJP, which continues to ride on the Modi wave, is likely to go all alone in the Assembly polls. It may give one or two seats to its alliance partner Akali Dal.
The BJP has already announced that it is going to polls under the leadership of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
The party’s central election committee is expected to meet on September 29 in New Delhi to finalise the candidates for the elections.
The party has decided not to field family members of its sitting MPs and legislators.
Only time will tell how many ‘turncoats’ manage to get the ticket for the polls.
The Congress, on the other hand, is still dithering over its chief ministerial candidate.
The main contenders are newly-appointed Leader of Opposition and two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and state Congress President and former Union Minister Kumari Selja, who is known in political circles for her proximity to the party’s organisational leadership.
In the 2014 Haryana assembly polls, the INLD and Congress had won 19 and 15 seats, respectively.
BJP’s ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and BSP won one seat each, while independents won five seats.
Due to the practice of ‘Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram’, a phrase coined for the art of defection, the 90-member House was effectively reduced to 83, with five of them losing membership under anti-defection law for switching loyalties. One of them died and another resigned.
The disqualified ones are Naina Chautala, Pirthi Singh, Rajdeep Phogat, Anoop Dhanak and Naseem Ahmad, all belonging to the regional outfit Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) that saw vertical split last year owing a feud in the Chautala family.
Of INLD’s 19 MLAs, four joined its breakaway faction — the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), led by Dushyant Chautala. Two legislators passed away.
The state will go to the polls in single phase on October 21. The results will be declared on October 24.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])