New Delhi: With multiple candidates locked in battle for the Jind Assembly seat, including big wigs like Congress’s Randeep Singh Surjewala and Jananayak Janata Party (JJP) candidate Digvijay Chautala, the result of bypoll slated for Thursday will provide a glimpse of the political sentiment in Haryana months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Jind went to poll on January 28 and recorded nearly 76 per cent voter turnout. The by-election has become a prestige battle between the ruling BJP and Congress and a litmus test for Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and its splinter group JJP.
Jind came under national spotlight after Congress fielded AICC communication in-charge Surjewala, who is a sitting legislator from Kaithal. He had told News18 that a victory in Jind would act as a ‘stepping stone’ for Congress win in state and Centre. The BJP has fielded Krishan Midha, a newcomer to politics and a doctor by practice. Midha, however, has a political legacy to carry forward. He is the son of Hari Chand Midha, a two-time INLD MLA from Jind, whose death in August last year necessitated the by-election. Midha junior joined BJP two months after his father passed away.
“I’m confident the BJP is winning Jind. There is no doubt about it,” Midha told News18 on the eve of results. “BJP workers have gone out and talked to the people. The sentiment is clearly in favour of BJP. We will win by a margin of at least 10,000 votes.”
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar gave a late push to Midha’s campaign by holding a rally in Jind three days ahead of election. The CM had said that all Jind issues would directly be taken up by him if Midha was elected to the Assembly from the seat.
INLD’s candidate Umedh Redhu, a Jind local, was not as confident as Midha. “It feels that we will win,” Redhu said. “I went to different booths during polls and received a lot of love from voters. The rest is up to god.” Redhu’s campaign was focused on his familiarity with issues of the district. INLD has called all other candidates ‘outsiders’ and is banking on Redhu to capitalise on caste equations in the poll. Redhu, a Jat, had received support from Kandela Khap, a community of predominantly Jat villages in the region, ahead of the bypoll.
INLD and the Chautala family underwent a bitter split in November last year when Ajay Chautala and his sons Dushyant, Member of Parliament from Hisar, and Digvijay, a student leader with Indian National Student Organisation (INSO), were expelled from the party. The excommunicated Chautala clan then formed their own party, JJP, and decided to contest Jind bypoll. The results of election that pit the two warring Chautala clans against each other will thus be crucial for both parties.
Digvijay campaigned heavily in Jind and also formed an alliance with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ahead of polls. AAP convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal held a rally in Jind, backing JJP two days ahead of election date. Digvijay, a 27-year-old, enjoys considerable youth support and is also banking on Jat votes.
With around 45,000 voters out of a total 1.7 lakh, Jats form the majority community after Scheduled castes and OBCs in Jind constituency. Jat votes are expected to be split between Digvijay, Redhu and Surjewala. Besides Jats, Jind also has a sizable number of Baniyas. The introduction of Kejriwal in JJP’s campaign is expected to woo the 11,000-strong community in Jind.
The INLD had called JJP's election bid a 'greedy power grab'. Arjun Chautala, son of Abhay Chautala, had said his uncle Ajay believed in dynasty politics and wanted both his sons in political positions. "His wife is an MLA, his elder son is an MP and now he wants his younger son to become an MLA as well. The INLD could have fielded me or my brother, but we went with a local candidate. The JJP represents greed and it will not succeed," he had told News18 ahead of polls.
The BJP-Congress battle and the Chautala showdown, however, could be interrupted by Loktantra Suraksha Party (LSP). The LSP, newly formed party of rebel BJP parliamentarian Raj Kumar Saini, had nominated Vinod Ashri for the bypoll. Ashri, the only Brahmin candidate in the polls, enjoyed popularity among traders in Jind city during his campaign.
“I have complete faith in the people. The LSP will win with a big majority,” he said. According to Ashri, people were tired of BJP, Congress and the Chautalas and were looking for change. “The people of Jind have voted with conviction and the results will reflect that.”
AAP Haryana president Naveen Jaihind had dismissed BJP, Congress and INLD from the poll battle ahead of election date itself. He had said the bypoll was a two- way contest between JJP and LSP. “CBI (Congress, BJP, INLD) is out of the picture,” Jaihind had said.