NEW DELHI: In Spite of falling six short of the halfway mark in Haryana, the BJP seems well ensconced to form the next government in the state, thanks to the eight independents who have pledged their “unconditional support” to the saffron party. Yet, the party leadership is keen to have Dushyant Chautala led Jannayak Janta Party on board, a party that fought a bitter campaign on the Jat plank, targeting the BJP.
If sources in the BJP are to be believed, one general secretary, who was earlier a minister, was appointed on Thursday to reach out to the JJP, when trends showed BJP may not be able to get a majority on its own. Twenty four hours later, the BJP is well in position to form a government without the help of the JJP but still keen to have them on board. The reason is not numbers, which the BJP has easily achieved, but the caste equation in a state where 2019 Assembly elections consolidated its predominant caste Jats against Khattar’s party.
Dushyant, too is not averse to the idea of a rethink and “start afresh”, say sources.
The new face of Jats headed to Tihar prison where his father Ajay Chautala is lodged. While the official version is to seek Chautala senior’s “blessings”, many insist its a father-son consultation on whether to join the BJP government and risk a political career by antagonising the Jats and if at all, and on what terms.
Informed sources say both the BJP and the JJP have its own reasons to do business with each other. For the BJP, its healing the wounds of Jats who used this election as a “moochh ki ladai” (fight for honour). Jats, interestingly do not reside in Haryana alone but in Western Uttar Pradesh as well, a state where Yogi’s approval ratings aren’t very high, if by-poll results are anything to go by.
In 2022, three years from now when Yogi will go to seek another term, Jats will be a deciding factor in vast tracts of western uttar Pradesh. Muslims, the other dominant segment, anyway is not a BJP voter base here. The disenchantment with the jats in Western UP nearly cost the BJP’s Jat face in that region. Sanjeev Balyan barely survived with a thin margin of 6,526 votes from Muzaffarnagar in 2019 general elections. BJP is mindful of this disenchantment and wants to undo it.
From JJP’s point of view, it knows that if it does not align with the BJP in Haryana, it may face large scale defection from a party that has just tasted success and outperformed INLD, the traditional Jat party.
Dushyant Chautala also realises, keeping the cadre base alive for another 5 years while being away from power, may be a tough ask. Also Ajay Chautala and his father Om Prakash Chautala are currently serving a jail term of 10 years after being found guilty in teachers’ recruitment scam. Dushyant’s “terms of negotiations”, if at all, may also largely depend on what transpires in the father-son meeting and what the BJP has to offer.
But working under Khattar will deal a body blow to Dushyant’s brand of politics that made him the rightful inheritors of Devi Lal’s legacy. But not doing business with the BJP may leave him insignificant and his party in shambles. But right now, both Dushyant and BJP are exploring possibilities and weighing options for a deal that helps both.
It’s no longer a number game, but much more than that.