Haryana elections: Poll arithmetic of the big fight
Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has a tough challenge in his hands as he looks to ensure Congress' third straight victory in the state.
Land scams and the Vadra taint are the smaller of Hooda's troubles given the fact that he faces an army of opponents within the party who have been accusing him of nepotism and lopsided development.
While senior leaders like Rao Inderjit Singh and Birender Kumar have left the party, there are others like Kumari Selja and Capt Ajay Yadav who are waiting in the wings to see Hooda's fall.
The anti-incumbency of 10 years coupled with a divided party may very well ensure that Congress loses steam this time. In 2009, the party had managed to win just 40 seats of the total 90 despite a high voltage 'Haryana No 1' campaign.
Hooda hopes to hold on to the tally if not improve upon it. Of the factors he is banking on are a fractured opposition and his continuing sway over Jat politics.
The Chief Minister knows a loss would mean an end of his dominance in the party's state unit. Also, the Congress high command is desperate for a win as it will reinvigorate the party across the country after the washout in Lok Sabha elections.
Emboldened by its stunning performance in Lok Sabha polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party's decided to go it alone in Haryana. The party, which till recently, was a marginal player in the state, won a whopping 7 of the total 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state in alliance with Kuldeep Bishnoi's Haryana Janhit Congress.
The magnitude of the victory becomes more profound when one considers that the party had won just four assembly seats in 2009.
For the record, party leaders say that 'Modi wave' still finds resonance – party slogan says ‘BJP ke Saath Chaliyein, Narendra Modi Ke Saath Chaliyein’ - and would be enough to ensure victory, however, on the ground, the party is meticulously planning its moves.
And the most important part of the strategy is to break into the Jat vote bank. The party also has inducted a number of Congress turncoats in its endeavour to capture power in its very first serious attempt.
The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) remains relevant in Haryana politics despite party patriarch Om Prakash Chautala serving jail term in a corruption case.
With a strong following among the powerful Jat community, Chautala is confident that he will be the next CM of the state and has declared that he will take oath from inside the Tihar Jail.
While Chautala has reasons to be confident given the fact that INLD was the only party in Haryana that could withstand the saffron sweep, the dynamics have altered to a large extent after the BJP won over powerful leaders from other parties in a bid to strengthen its support base in the state.
HJC and the others
Bhajan Lal's son Kuldeep Bishnoi is fighting a lonely battle after his party Haryana Janhit Congress Party parted ways with the BJP. Though influential in pockets, the party has no option but to play second fiddle to the big battle between the Congress, BJP and INLD.
His best chance would be emerge as a kingmaker – a role he was keen to play in 2009 when the Congress fell short of majority but his plans went awry after Congress managed a defection (of the six HJC MLAs that included Bishnoi, five broke away to join the Congress).
The other player in the race is former minister Gopal Goyal Kanda, who has spent time in prison in connection with the Geetika Sharma suicide case. He may retain his Sirsa seat but anything more may be wishful thinking.