The assembly election in Haryana will be a triangular fight. Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress and Indian National Lok Dal all have strengths and weaknesses. During the general elections a few months ago, the state turned saffron, with the BJP winning seven of its ten Lok Sabha seats. But since then, the INLD has made something of a comeback, and even the Congress has regained some lost ground. The possibility of a fractured mandate has increased as the state goes to polls.

The Congress, which has been in power for ten years and is facing a strong anti-incumbency sentiment, still exercises considerable influence in Rohtak and neighbouring districts of central Haryana. The Congress managed to hold onto these seats even in the Lok Sabha election, despite the Modi wave. Of the 26 assembly segments in central Haryana, the Congress led in 13 and trailed closely in the rest. Southern Haryana’s Mewat region, which has three seats with a high concentration of minority voters, is another pocket where the Congress is likely to do well in the assembly polls.

The Congress is banking primarily on this central region of Haryana, which is said to have benefited most during the last ten years. Congress Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda remains a popular leader here. A good performance here can keep his party in the reckoning in the post-poll scenario, if alliances need to be struck.

BJP on the rise

The Haryana assembly has 90 seats. In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP led in 52 of the 72 assembly segments it contested. While it is debatable if the BJP will manage to repeat its Lok Sabha performance, the party certainly looks on the rise in the state.

Going it alone

The BJP is fighting without an alliance partner this time. Haryana Janhit Congress, its partner during the general elections, is vying for non-Jat votes, the main support base for the saffron party. But the vital consideration for the BJP is which way the Jat votes will go.

The Jat community comprises nearly one-fourth of the population of Haryana and has dominated the state’s politics since its formation in 1966. Hooda and INLD leader Om Prakash Chautala are both prominent Jat politicians. The BJP lacks a leader of the same stature from this community.

The Jat vote, in fact, means the INLD is the dark horse in this contest. In the Lok Sabha election the party won only two seats, but managed to get more than 24% of the vote. The INLD’s fortunes in the assembly polls will rest primarily on two social categories: Jats and Sikhs. Chautala is seen a polarising factor for Jats, but the INLD is hoping that its alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal will fetch Sikh votes in the state.