If the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party's (BJP) is looking for vistar (expansion) in Haryana, perhaps there's no better place than Jatland, Rohtak.
No surprise that the BJP president, Amit Shah, has chosen Rohtak, a stronghold of the former chief minister (CM) and Jat leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, for his three-day (2 August to 4 August) visit to Haryana beginning tomorrow as part of his countrywide Vistar Yatra (expansion programme).
Even as the supposed "Modi wave" swept Haryana in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP lost the Jat dominated constituencies of Rohtak (Congress), Sirsa and Hissar (both INLD) despite winning the remaining seven seats with the consolidation of non-Jat votes in its favor.
In the October 2014 Assembly polls too, the BJP first-time came to power on its own with 47 seats in 90-seat House, but Jat voters – who form 25 per cent (largest) vote share in the state – remained loyal to Jat leaders, Bhupinder Singh Hooda of the Congress and the Chautalas of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). BJP polled only 22 percent of total Jat votes.
While the INLD won all five Assembly seats in the Jat heartland of Sirsa, Hooda's hold in the Deswali belt (Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sonepat, Bahadurgarh, Badli) helped the Congress in winning ten of the 14 Jat-dominated seats. The same Jat-dominated strongholds had given the ruling BJP a tough time during the violent agitation by the community for other backward class (OBC) reservation in 2016.
No surprise therefore the BJP president Shah will remain in Rohtak, where the party is also having its state headquarter, during his three-day visit as part of the party's plan to improve its hold in the Jatland which could help the party return to power in the state and Centre in 2019.
As both the Congress and INLD largely depend on their performance in the Jat-dominated constituencies for electoral success, the ruling BJP is trying to break their hold over community.
"Both the Congress and INLD are family dominated parties. Hooda and Chautalas have done nothing but to serve their family interests. BJP is free from nepotism and corruption. Our party has delivered corruption-free transparent governance at the Centre and state. Therefore, Jats like me are liking the BJP," said Colonel (retired) Rajender Singh
Suhag, who is heading the ex-servicemen cell of the BJP, told The Statesman.
Post the violent Jat agitation, a divide exists between the Jat and non-Jats. While the consolidation of non-Jat votes will continue to help the BJP, increased foothold in the Jatland can help the party in weakening its rivals, Congress and INLD.