Is Haryana headed for early elections?

Chandigarh, July 16 : With political activity in Haryana reaching a feverish pitch, there are indications that assembly elections in the state are round the corner. Political parties and leaders seem to be in an overdrive these days to complete things well in time before the Election Commission announces the election dates. The term of the 90-member assembly gets over Oct 27. Balloting has to be held before that. However, with most of October enveloped by the festival season, there are indications that the poll panel might opt for polling in September.

Senior police officers say the Election Commission has been told that it would be difficult to spare police personnel for election duty in October. But the Election Commission may decide the election dates based on when it plans assembly polls in states like Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi. The manner the Congress government of Bhupinder Singh Hooda last week rushed through with a bill to hand over control of Sikh shrines in the state to a new body and take them out of the ambit of the Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) betrayed a certain urgency.

The bill was introduced in the assembly on the very first day of the monsoon session and passed within three hours. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) walked out over the manner the bill was rushed through. The assent of Haryana Governor Jagannath Pahadia was obtained Monday to make it into an act. Pahadia is at the fag end of his term which ends this month. Despite the SGPC and the Shiromani Akali Dal urging him to seek legal opinion over the controversial issue, Pahadia gave his assent.

Chief Minister Hooda too is quite active these days with press conferences and rallies. Advertisements being issued by his government in print and electronic media indicate an urgency to take steps before the poll dates are announced and the model code of conduct comes into force.

Hooda, who has been chief minister since March 2005 (in two terms), seems confident that the Congress will return to power for a third term. This is despite the fact that the Congress was routed in the parliamentary polls. It won just one of the 10 seats. In 2009, it had won nine seats.

The BJP, which won seven of the 10 Lok Sabha seats and led in over 60 assembly constituencies, wants to go it alone in the assembly elections. Its alliance with the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) led by former MP Kuldeep Bishnoi, son of former chief minister Bhajan Lal, is nearing a breakup. The BJP is, for the first time, hopeful of winning the state elections on its own. Till now, the BJP, which did not have a strong base in Haryana, used to play second fiddle to other parties.

The INLD, Haryana’s biggest opposition party, too is in an election mode, eyeing a comeback. But its two top leaders, former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and Ajay Chautala, are in prison after their conviction last year by a CBI court in a scam involving recruitment of teachers. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which landed in Haryana with a lot of promise, has decided not to contest the assembly elections after the extremely poor faring of its candidates in the Lok Sabha battle. All its 10 candidates lost their security deposit.

Newer political outfits, formed mostly by breakaway leaders from the Congress, have also emerged in recent days to have a go at the assembly elections. With the parties and leaders in an election mood, all eyes are on the Election Commission to take a call on when to hold the assembly elections.