Chandigarh: If the Sunday results of the Zila Parishad polls in Haryana are anything to go by, it is clear who the voters have put their trust in — Independent candidates emerged victorious, winning most seats, while the ruling BJP suffered a setback. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made its presence felt in the state by registering surprise wins in seats bordering Punjab.
All the major political parties contested in only a fraction of the total Zila Parishad seats and the Congress did not field any candidate on its party symbol.
The polls for 411 seats in 22 Zila Parishads were held in three phases from October to November. Of them, as many as 353 were won by Independent candidates, cornering almost 86 per cent of the total votes polled. About 85 lakh people had voted for over 3,000 candidates.
The major political parties assigned their party’s symbol only to those candidates whom they considered had a good chance of winning. A majority of these candidates failed to make the cut.
While the ruling BJP contested in 102 seats and won only 22, the AAP fielded its candidates in 114 seats and won 14. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) fought 98 seats and won 13 and The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) contested in 71 seats and won eight. INLD’s breakaway outfit, the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), which is in power along with the BJP in the state, contested in two seats and lost both.
Talking to ThePrint, Sultan Singh, Professor, Department of Public Administration, Chaudhary Devi Lal University, Sirsa, said “The most significant takeaway from these elections is that Rural Haryana has voted for candidates keeping in view their individual potential. They have given preference to the candidate’s ability to connect to the ground, rather than blindly vote for someone representing a big political party or related to a prominent politician.”
For the BJP, the results should act as a wake-up call, he said. “This shows that there is a gap between the promises that leaders make at the state level and how those promises are implemented on the ground.”
For AAP, there is cause for celebration, Singh further said. “I think their promise of good quality education at the school level and quality health services struck a positive chord.”
Political parties were quick to take credit for the wins secured by Independent candidates.
Reacting to the results, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda, in a press statement Monday, said that the BJP had lost the “moral right” to remain in power even for a day. He claimed in a tweet that a majority of the independents who had won were actually followers of the Congress ideology and were being directly or indirectly supported by the party.
The BJP was not far behind. It also claimed that apart from its 22 candidates who won, at least 151 of the winning independents were supported directly by the BJP and another 126 followed its ideology. “So, in total we have won 300 of the 411 seats and will have our chairmen heading these Zila Parishads,” said Sanjay Sharma, media head of the BJP in Haryana, to ThePrint.
The JJP, too, claimed that at least 100 of the winning Independents had its support. Digvijay Chautala, younger brother of Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala, took to Twitter to counter Hooda’s claims.
Despite the tall claims of victory, senior BJP leaders Monday went into a huddle to assess the reasons for the party’s dismal performance. Former Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who was made the BJP in-charge of Haryana in September, chaired the meeting.
The BJP contested in seven districts: Nuh, Ambala, Gurugram, Kurukshetra, Panchkula, Sirsa and Yamunanagar. While it registered some victories in Nuh, Yamunanagar and Gurugram, it was wiped out in Sirsa and Panchkula. Its performance in Ambala and Kurukshetra, too, was poor.
The AAP managed a surprise victory in Sirsa and registered minor victories in Ambala, Kaithal, Jind and Kurukshetra.
The INLD revived its hold in Sirsa and registered minor victories in Karnal and Panipat. The BSP won some seats in Yamunanagar, Ambala, Faridabad and Karnal.
The hotly-contested districts were Hisar, Bhiwani, Nuh and Karnal, where more than 200 candidates each were in the fray. The number of seats per Zila Parishad ranged from 10 to 30.
Surprise wins and shocking defeats
Sirsa is a traditional stronghold of the INLD and former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala’s family. The party confidently fielded 23 candidates in the 24 ward parishad. It won 10 seats here signalling the possible revival of the beleaguered party that had turned into a pale shadow of itself following its 2018 split that led to the creation of the JJP.
The JJP went on to become a partner in power with the BJP following the 2019 Assembly Elections with 10 MLAs, while the INLD shrunk to a party with just a single MLA, Abhay Singh Chautala. Chautala’s elder son Karan Chautala won from ward 6.
All the 10 BJP candidates lost, putting a question mark on the political hold of Ranjit Singh, BJP-JJP’s Power Minister and brother of Om Prakash Chautala. Ranjit Singh had won as an independent MLA from Raniya constituency which falls in Sirsa. Later, he joined hands with the ruling BJP that rewarded Ranjit Singh with a cabinet berth. Sunday’s results, however, show that Ranjit Singh’s presence in the ruling party has not led to any improvement in the BJP’s electoral fortunes in Sirsa.
The AAP was the surprise winner in Sirsa where 6 of its 17 candidates won. Sources in the party attributed the victory to the fact that the district borders Punjab, where the AAP won with a thumping majority in the assembly elections in March this year.
The BJP’s performance at Panchkula, which abuts Chandigarh, was equally shocking for the party leaders. Panchkula is largely an urban centre but areas around Pinjore and Morni have rural populations. Both Panchkula MLA Gian Chand Gupta and Mayor Kulbhushan Goyal are from the BJP.
Gupta, who is also the speaker of the Haryana Vidhan Sabha, was confident of the party sweeping zila parishad polls. All 10 candidates fielded by the BJP lost to Independents. Apart from the INLD, which fielded a single candidate here who also lost, no other party had put up any candidate in Panchkula.
BJP fielded the largest number of candidates in Nuh. It put up its candidates in 24 of the 25 wards, of which it won seven. Muslim-dominated Nuh is a traditional stronghold of the Congress and the BJP winning seven seats here is significant for the party. The AAP contested eight seats here and lost in all.
The INLD and BSP, too, had put up 3 candidates each here but did not register any win. As many as 18 Independents won.
In Yamunanagar, despite the fact that BJP had barely managed to win the assembly seat in 2019, the party was confident of winning all 18 wards of the zila parishads, but won only six.
The AAP put up 17 candidates but performed poorly, winning just one seat. The big gainer was BSP. It put up candidates for 16 seats, of which it won 4. The INLD had put up 17 candidates, but won only one seat.
AAP calls its victory huge
Apart from Sirsa, where the AAP won half a dozen seats, and at Ambala, where it won three seats, it lost majorly at all the places it had contested. AAP had fielded 11 candidates in Karnal and five in Sonipat and could not secure a single seat in either district. In Bhiwani, Jhajjar and Mahendergarh, the party had fielded two candidates each, but both lost. It had fielded one candidate each in Charkhi Dadri, Panipat, Rewari and Rohtak, but lost out on all.
At Jind and Kaithal, the party had fielded seven candidates each — it won two seats in Jind and one in Kaithal.
However, AAP President and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejirwal projected its victories as “huge” in a tweet.
Political analyst and advocate Rajiv Godara told ThePrint that the results should be a “cause for worry” for the BJP. He, however, added that there was nothing for the AAP to celebrate in these results except for its victories in Ambala and Sirsa which could be attributed to the fact that these two districts are very close to Punjab where the party is in power.
“It will be wrong to say that they have made inroads into Haryana with these results. In fact the AAP’s position was much better ahead of the 2014 Assembly Elections,” he added.
(Edited by Geethalakshmi Ramanathan)