BJP was widely expected to coast to a comfortable win in Haryana after the party won 10/10 seats in Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, and all the Exit polls (except Axis) hinted at the same. However, the actual results proved all those exit polls wrong as BJP fell short of majority mark and had to take support from 7 independents (including 5 BJP rebels) and tainted Gopal Kanda to form the government.
BJP’s vote share has gone up from 2014 assembly elections when it got 33% votes compared to 36% now, but it is a huge dip from the 58% votes it got during Lok Sabha elections earlier this year and it must have left party leadership with a lot of soul searching to do. 8 ministers in Manohar Lal Khattar government ended up losing in this election. The state president of the party lost with a whopping 52,000 votes. It is clear that the people were not very happy with the local leadership of the party. Arrogance is a word one always hears while talking to locals about the state BJP leaders and maybe this will make them a bit more humble going forward.
While the party wasn’t expected to do well at all in Deswali belt, where Hoodas returned with a one-sided sweep, BJP’s performance fell below expectations in several other districts as well.
In North Haryana, they ended up with an even split with Congress across Panchkula, Ambala and Yamunanagar. Even in CM’s home turf of Karnal, which they swept last time, they ended up losing in Assandh and Nilokheri.
BJP had cracked a winning formula in Haryana, Modi brand + Khattar’s clean image (in a state where people are not used to a CM with no corruption allegation) + consolidation of non-Jat voters. However, the non-Jat votes didn’t consolidate this time unlike Lok Sabha elections. On the other hand, Jat votes expectedly stayed away from BJP, rallying behind Hoodas and Dushyant Chautala. Such was Jat’s anger with BJP that even senior Jat leaders of BJP like Captain Abhimanyu and OP Dhankad were handed comprehensive defeats.
BJP highlighted Chief Minister ML Khattar’s clean image during the elections and while everyone agrees that he has reduced the practice of bribes from Government jobs, the fact is, there were just not enough jobs during his tenure. The state which has a very high preference for government jobs, is currently having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and Article 370 or Khattar’s personal honesty doesn’t satisfy them as much as a Government job would.
Low voter turnout, particularly in urban segments affected BJP in particular. The voting percentage dipped from 76% last time to 63% this time. Could be lack of enthusiasm for the government or just complacency with everyone predicting an easy BJP win, but it seriously dented BJP.
Another big problem for BJP this election turned out to be the ticket distribution. Turncoats from INLD and parachute candidates were given preference over BJP workers and that severely affected them in around 10 seats. While 5 of the independents who won were formerly with BJP, rebels also decisively hurt their chances in seats like Sirsa and Rewari.
Despite Jat consolidation against them and the complacency that had set in among a section of the party, they still could have managed a majority on their own with a better selection of candidates.
Narendra Modi remains immensely popular in the state and a national election will still deliver the same result for BJP that we saw during Lok Sabha in Haryana but it has been a humbling experience for the local leadership. BJP will do well to realize that 370 and National security are important issues in Lok Sabha elections but in assembly elections, local unemployment matters more to people than those issues.