“We will vote for Hooda. The vote of the Jats is not for the Gandhi family but for the Hoodas. If Deepender Hooda had been projected as the future Chief Minister, the Congress would have gained much in Haryana in parliamentary elections,” Darshan Nangdal, a farmer belonging to Asthal Bohar village on the Delhi-Rohtak road, told businessline.

Darshan Nangdal’s is not an isolated opinion but symptomatic of the sharp polarisation of Jat votes around former Haryana Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Bhupender Singh Hooda and his son Deepender Hooda, who is contesting from Rohtak as a Congress candidate against sitting BJP MP Dr Arvind Kumar Sharma. 

After the Lok Sabha elections, for which polling is due in the sixth phase on May 25 in Haryana, State Assembly elections are scheduled later this year, for which Hoodas are being favoured by the Jats.

Jats are the most dominant community in Haryana, forming about 27 per cent of the population. This is unlike the previous elections when the Jats, who have not been with the BJP, got split among different parties such as Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) and his nephew Abhay Chautala’s Indian National Lokdal (INLD).

The BJP, on the other hand, ruled the State Assembly and managed to get a lion’s share of the Lok Sabha seats in the last two elections, largely on a reverse polarisation of other communities against the Jats. This is why the BJP anointed a Punjabi Khatri like Manohar Lal Khattar as Chief Minister, and now, at the fag end of Khattar’s tenure, he has been replaced by Naib Singh Saini as CM.

In the last Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won all ten parliamentary seats in the state. Prior to that, in the 2014 elections, the INLD, led by former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, had won two seats of Sirsa and Hisar, while the BJP won seven and Congress had picked just the Rohatak constituency.

The INLD was originally formed by former Chief Minister and iconic Jat leader Chaudhary Devi Lal in 1996, but the party was split in 2018 to form the JJP. 

But this time, the Jats are angry, particularly with JJP president and co-founder Dushyant Chautala, for what they believe is a “betrayal” of the anti-BJP feeling among the Jats. The Jats did not vote for the BJP and supported the JJP in the assembly elections in Haryana in 2019. However, Chautala joined the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in the state to become the Deputy Chief Minister. Dushyant Chautala also did not actively support the year-long agitation against farm laws.

So, this time, the Jats have consolidated around the Congress and the Hoodas.

In Kandala village of Sonipath, Dinesh Jat, a farmer owning 3 acres of land, said last time he voted for Chautala, but this time he will support the Congress since Dushayant betrayed him, indicating the vote shift away from the JJP.

The vocal community of Jats, interestingly, is silent and refrains from hyping the need for political change in the state. Local Congress leaders explained that it is out of a strategy owing to fear of equal counter-polarisation of non-Jat OBC voters that will benefit the BJP, which has empowered the social class since making Khattar and Saini CMs. 

“The Congress party in the last one year has gone from strength to strength. The Congress in Haryana will come back strongly, led by Hooda Ji (his father),” Deepender told buisinessline.

Sensing the Jat consolidation in favour of the Congress, the BJP is addressing non-Jat communities. Addressing a rally in Karnal on Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah attacked Bhupender Singh Hooda. “Earlier, Haryana used to be caught in a dilemma. When one family (Hooda) used to come to power, corruption used to reach its peak, and when another family (Chautala) used to come to power, nepotism and hooliganism used to increase,” Shah said.