New Delhi: Jind bypoll results in Haryana handed a convincing victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with the saffron party candidate Krishan Midha winning by a comfortable margin of over 12,000 votes on Thursday.
The BJP recorded its maiden victory in Jind by fighting off the newly formed Jananayak Janata Party (JJP) and leaving the Congress in the dust.
What is telling is that the Congress came third despite fielding a strong candidate in Randeep Singh Surjewala. The JJP, which was borne out of a bitter feud in the Chautala family of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), put up a strong performance in their political debut and finished runners-up in Jind ahead of the Congress by a considerable margin of around 15,000 votes.
Surjewala, a prominent national leader, All India Congress Committee (AICC) communication in-charge and sitting legislator from the neighbouring seat of Kaithal, was handed the responsibility of delivering Jind for Congress.
His popularity put Jind bypoll under national spotlight and turned the election into a prestige battle for the parties involved. But, as the numbers on counting day show, Surjewala and consequently the Congress was thoroughly rejected by Jind.
While the JJP took its impressive first steps in politics, the INLD suffered a total erasure on a seat they had won two times in a row. The Chautalas managed to crawl just a shade above 3,000 votes, indicating that the legacy of Chaudhary Devi Lal and the political clout of the prominent Chautala family might just have crossed sides when the Ajay Chautala and his sons Dushyant and Digvijay split from the party and floated JJP toward the end of last year.
The results show that in less than two months, JJP, with 27-year-old Digvijay Chautala as its candidate for the by-election, has established its presence and voter base.
The rise of JJP in Jind bypoll, while spelling doom for the INLD, also creates new problems for Congress. Surjewala, a prominent Jat leader, was expected to tilt caste equations in favour of the Congress. Out of a total 1.7 lakh voters in Jind, about 45,000 belong to the Jats, a community that holds considerable clout in Haryana. However, a large chunk of the Jat vote seems to have been absorbed by Digvijay of the JJP. The youngest Chautala, also a Jat, enjoyed appeal in his community, especially among the youth.
The nascent JJP securing considerably more votes than Congress, a traditional party for Jats in Haryana, signals toward a faltering grand old party in the state. “This result should be of serious concern for the Congress,” said Deep Kamal Saharan, a JJP spokesperson. “Congress put their best candidate forward. It was a surprising move, to field a sitting MLA and Rahul Gandhi’s right hand man. Several prominent Congress leaders, including former CM Bhupinder Hooda, campaigned in Jind. But despite all that, Surjwala finished third. It is telling,” Saharan said.
According to Saharan, the results indicate that the next Assembly elections in the state will be a fight between the ruling BJP and the JJP.
Surjewala accepted his defeat after the results, but maintained that all was well in the Congress camp. "The party gave me a responsibility and I tried my best. The decision belongs to Jind’s people and they have chosen the BJP and I wish them the best," he said.
Surjewala denied any rifts in the Haryana unit of Congress and said he was confident of the party's prospects in the Lok Sabha elections despite the bypoll defeat. "General elections will see a new decision. I’m convinced the Congress will win in general elections and form the government."
Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee president Ashok Tanwar was unavailable for comment and did not respond to multiple attempts of reaching him.
In 2014 Haryana Assembly polls, Congress had lost the Jat votes to INLD. According to Lokniti CSDS data, the Congress received 24 per cent of the Jat votes, while the INLD received 42 per cent votes from the community. In this bypoll, the JJP has supplanted the INLD and appears to have taken up the share of Jat votes. In addition to losing caste votes to JJP, Surjewala also failed to garner urban votes.
Jind, a largely urban constituency, has about 1.01 lakh urban voters and Surejwala was believed to have appeal among city voters. But BJP’s Midha is believed to have dominated in urban regions of the constituency. The Punjabi leader seems to have attracted votes from different communities, with scheduled castes, OBCs, Baniyas, Punjabis and Brahmans favouring the ruling party in the state. His father Hari Chand Midha, an INLD leader, too had won the Jind seat twice. Midha senior’s death in August last year necessitated the bypoll.
Midha’s win also continued Jind’s tradition of electing a non-Jat Legislator. The constituency has not elected a Jat leader in 40 years.
Midha, who was confident of his win before polling date, said the results proved that people appreciate BJP government’s work in Haryana. “This shows my father is still appreciated and CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s policies have benefited people,” Midha said after his win.
Jind’s trader community, about 11,000-strong, also seemed to have swayed toward the JJP after Aam Admi Party (AAP) threw their weight behind Digvijay. AAP Convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, who also belongs to the Baniya community, had held a rally in Jind two days ahead of polling day where he had appealed to his caste brothers. “I’ve heard the trader community is confused over whom to vote in the bypoll. Now I’m here. Is your confusion gone?” Kejriwal had said.
JJP’s Digvijay accepted his defeat, but said this was a positive start for the new party. “People have shown me, my brother Dushyant and JJP their love. I will run elections again from any seat my party wants me to,” the JJP candidate said. “I want to congratulate BJP for their victory. We have lost, but I don’t consider this result as a loss.”