AN impressive victory in the Jind Assembly byelection has given the ruling BJP a strong head start in the run-up to the Lok Sabha and Haryana Vidhan Sabha elections. The verdict is also a triumph of sorts for young MP Dushyant Chautala, who had parted ways with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) amid a no-holds-barred family feud and founded the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) late last year. On its electoral debut, the AAP-backed JJP put up a good fight to finish second.
The big losers are the INLD and the Congress, the main opposition parties in the state. The former finished a lowly fifth, even below the Loktantra Suraksha Party formed by BJP’s rebel MP Raj Kumar Saini. The INLD lost face as well as the seat it had won in 2009 and 2014 thanks to Hari Chand Middha, whose death necessitated the bypoll. The seat stays with the family as his son, Krishan Middha, who switched over to the BJP a few months ago, emerged victorious. Rahul Gandhi had raised the stakes very high by fielding Congress spokesperson and Kaithal MLA Randeep Singh Surjewala, but the desperate move exposed the party’s inability to find a suitable candidate from Jind itself. Factionalism in the state Congress made things even worse for Surjewala, who ended up third. The humbling loss suggests that the party’s recent resurgence in the Hindi belt might not spread to Haryana in the bigger battles to be fought later this year, unless former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and other bigwigs somehow bury the hatchet.
The crucial division of the Jat vote — the community claims to account for over one-fourth of the Jind electorate — worked in favour of the BJP, which fielded a Punjabi face (three other major candidates were Jats). The saffron party has reasserted its supremacy, but it needs to be wary of the JJP, which is projecting itself as a viable alternative to the voters. As far as the INLD is concerned, it is in danger of being rendered a spent force sooner than later, not unlike its octogenarian supremo — the JBT scam-tainted Om Prakash Chautala.