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BJP wins Jind bypoll — 4 takeaways from the election dubbed a semifinal

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The BJP passes crucial test as Congress’ national spokesperson Surjewala and the INLD face a massive setback.

Chandigarh: The high-stakes Jind bypoll, results of which were declared Thursday, has seen the BJP’s Krishna Midha win by nearly 13,000 votes, with the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) candidate Digvijay Chautala finishing second. The Congress, which fielded its high-profile national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, has come in third.

The elections had been dubbed as a ‘semifinal’ to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the Haryana assembly elections later this year.

Here are four takeaways from the bypoll result.

BJP passes a crucial test

The bypoll was crucial to the ruling BJP coming as it did two months before the Lok Sabha elections and ahead of the assembly elections in the state later this year. Although it is generally a given that the party in power in the state has an upper hand in a bypoll, the BJP had left little to chance.

The BJP’s state leadership, including all MPs and MLAs, had campaigned in these elections. The party was wary especially as the Congress had fielded Surjewala and the state’s most dominant Jat party, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), and its breakaway faction, the JJP, had picked the bypoll for their first electoral duel.

The victory is no mean achievement for the ruling party and one for which Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar deserves more than his fair share of credit.

Apart from the focused effort that the party leadership put into winning this seat, the result is also a big thumbs up for the BJP’s four-and-a-half-year rule in the state.

It has to be borne in mind that the Jind electorate has elected an MLA for only eight months and had the electorate been extremely upset with the policies or working of the government they would have let their anger show at this stage.

Also read: Jind bypoll is a matter of prestige for Surjewala, Khattar and Chautala brothers

Massive setback for Surjewala

The biggest setback is undoubtedly for Surjewala, the Congress MLA from Kaithal, who is not only the national spokesperson of the party but a very close aide of party president Rahul Gandhi. The electorate has firmly rejected Surjewala as their choice of MLA and this defeat will make Gandhi review his strategy in Haryana.

For Surjewala personally, the Jind bypoll defeat is not going to be easily forgotten by anyone in the faction-ridden state Congress unit in this crucial year of two elections. He was being projected, at least by his supporters, as the next chief ministerial prospect for Haryana.

The defeat gives a ready point of criticism to other CM contenders, especially former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda who will now be able to, without much opposition, stake claim to being anointed the CM face of the party.

What, however, goes in favour of Surjewala is the fact that he agreed, even if reluctantly, to contest the poll in the first place. It was not going to be an easy election but the party high command had wanted the spokesperson to contest.

The bypoll was also an acid test for the leadership of Ashok Tanwar, the Dalit who is the state head of the party. Tanwar has always been at loggerheads with Hooda and the fact that he failed to muster the required number for a victory for Surjewala puts a question mark over his position as also his ability to consolidate the Dalit vote-bank. The constant refrain to replace him as state head of the party is bound to gather strength now.

JJP, AAP leave their mark

Another significant take away from this election is the undeclared announcement that JJP has arrived on Haryana’s political scene.

JJP candidate Digvijay Chautala, the brother of Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala, secured more than 37,600 votes while the INLD, from which the party had broken away, managed just 3,500 votes.

The JJP clearly has caught the youth’s fancy, even if only among the Jats.

In a sense, the results spell electoral disaster for the splintered INLD as it could lead to a fractured Jat vote-bank. The result may well force INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala and his younger son, Abhay Chautala, to think about reconciliation with Ajay Chautala and his sons.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which supported the JJP in the bypoll, can also pat itself on the back for having come in second. The result will generate hope among its cadre that the AAP can provide a serious fight to the three main parties in the state.

Also read: Haryana has a flashback as OP Chautala’s sons fight it out over father’s legacy

A tradition continues

The Jind bypoll result is also a reaffirmation of the caste politics that Haryana is inflicted with. Since 1972, Jind has never had a Jat MLA and the tradition continues.

Krishan Midha, a Punjabi, is the son of former INLD MLA Hari Chand Midha whose death necessitated these polls. The BJP was sharp enough to bring Krishan to its side.

Apart from the sympathy factor that worked in Krishan Midha’s favour, the BJP was able to consolidate the non-Jat vote, especially in the urban areas, while the Jats clearly preferred the JJP over the INLD.

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  1. One Chandigarh based journalist tweeted laconically, Bhupinder Singh Hooda … while referring to this result. If there is any merit to this claim, the Congress President may like to get a grip over factionalism, as the party prepares for both the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha elections in Haryana. Some damage was caused earlier in Rajasthan as well.

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