"For all the confusion among these leading parties, it will be hard for the electorate in the state to decide on which way to go this time."
By Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh, July 4 - With assembly polls in Haryana just over three months away, the state's major political parties would be expected to be in peak election mode. However, they seem to be confused on the political direction that they need to take.

There is confusion galore in the Congress on the leadership issue. The party is unable to control the internal opposition to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, mainly from Rajya Sabha MPs Birender Singh and Selja, a former union minister.

There was speculation in recent days that the Congress might opt for a leadership change by removing Hooda, who has been in office since March 2005. However, Hooda seems to have survived for now and looks confident to take on the opposition - both within and outside the Congress.

The Congress, which was virtually drubbed in the April-May Lok Sabha elections and ended up winning only one out of the state's 10 parliamentary seats, is finding it hard to recover lost ground and field winnable candidates. Though Hooda claims that he will return for a third term and that scores of applicants have lined up for Congress tickets for various seats, this is being seen more as political posturing than the ground reality within the Congress.

Hooda, who managed to become chief minister for the second time in October 2009 after roping in independent legislators and engineering defections in the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), will now be hard pressed to accommodate these very people with tickets. This will upset the Congress's own contenders from these seats.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), fresh from its electoral success in winning seven Lok Sabha seats in Haryana, is confused whether to go it alone in the assembly polls or stick to its ally in the parliamentary elections, the HJC. Leaders of both the parties have been hurling barbs at each other in recent weeks.

The HJC and its president Kuldeep Bishnoi, whom the BJP leadership had earlier projected as the future chief minister of the BJP-HJC alliance, knows that the BJP is not inclined to oblige him now. The HJC fared poorly in the Lok Sabha polls with Bishnoi losing his Hisar seat. He and the HJC are confused whether or not to dump the BJP and go it alone.

The state's principal opposition party, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), is making tall claims about returning to power. However, with its two top leaders - Om Prakash Chautala and Ajay Chautala - still in prison (they were convicted and sentenced in January 2013 to 10 years' imprisonment for a teachers' recruitment scam ), the INLD has lacked political direction.

The INLD tried hard to form an alliance with the BJP but the latter is hardly in a position to oblige it.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), whose first outing in the Lok Sabha polls was pathetic with all its candidates losing their security deposits, has, after the initial confusion, decided against contesting the assembly polls. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said that the party will instead focus on the expected Delhi assembly polls. This has not gone down well with AAP's Haryana leaders.

For all the confusion among these leading parties, it will be hard for the electorate in the state to decide on which way to go this time.

(Jaideep Sarin can be coantacted at [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>)


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