Rasheeda Bhagat

‘Aaya Ram gaya Ram’ time in Haryana, again

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on October 29, 2019

Voters can’t be taken for granted   -  PTI

The elections in Haryana and Maharashtra show how quickly voters’ patronage can slip away, setting the stage for deal-making

Who says the ‘ease of doing business’ in India hasn’t improve under the BJP, said a tongue-in-cheek message that landed in my inbox. “Yesterday Dushyant Chautala gave his support to the BJP and today his father Ajay Chautala is granted a two-week break from jail. Business is booming, doston!”

So we had this Assembly election in Haryana recently where the BJP expected to win big, having swept all the 10 Lok Sabha seats in the State this summer. But it got only 40, and couldn’t cross the halfway mark in a house of 90. In a flash, cartoons appeared of Home Minister Amit Shah in batting gear walking into the field. Before you could say ‘Haryana’, seven independents were in the BJP’s bag.

The much bigger surprise was Congress picking up 31 seats, thanks to the old guard led by former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, earlier sidelined by Rahul Gandhi but brought back by Sonia as Congress President. As the counting was on, the Congress appeared to be in a neck-and-neck race, giving the BJP quite a scare. But it fell short and despite offering the CM’s post to Dushyant Chautala, had to helplessly watch him slither away to the BJP camp, for obvious considerations.

The deal with the BJP got him back his father Ajay Chautala out of jail, for now only for a two-week furlough, but that space needs watching! As they say in Hindi, “Dekhiye, aage aage hota hei kya!”

Haryana’s infamous Lals

At the oath-taking of BJP’s ML Khattar, Ajay Chautala gushed how Dushyant had made him a proud father! Interpret it as you will, but Chautala jumping the ship, after running such a bitter campaign against the BJP, brings to mind the origin of the term ‘aya Ram, gaya Ram’ which has its genesis in Haryana, half a century ago. The expression denotes the worst in floor crossing, horse-trading, switching parties, etc., and no prizes for guessing that the Congress was first involved in the exercise.

In 1967, Gaya Lal, an independent got elected to the Haryana Assembly and joined the Congress. This was before the anti-defection law; within a fortnight he changed parties thrice. Finally, when he was induced back to the Congress, its leader Rao Birendra Singh, who had engineered Gaya Lal’s defection to Congress, produced him at a press conference in Chandigarh saying: “Gaya Ram is now Aya Ram!”

But Gaya Lal is no comparison to another veteran Lal of Haryana — former CM Bhajan Lal. In 1979, as a Janata Party minister, he toppled the government of Devi Lal and became chief minister with a razor-thin majority. The next year, when Indira Gandhi returned to power, he herded as many as 40 MLAs into the Congress (I) camp, and its grateful high command allowed him to continue as CM!

Worrisome results for BJP

Returning to the present, the Mahrashtra and Haryana results should worry the BJP, even though it will retain both the States it comes at a heavy price. In both Maharashtra (20) and Haryana (5), the NDA rebels spoilt the BJP’s party. While Haryana is a done deal, Maharashtra is still dicey for the BJP, as its tally has come down by 17 seats and, as in 2014, the Shiv Sena is flexing its muscles with Uddhav Thackeray demanding this time a rotational chief ministership.

A pliable Sharad Pawar of the NCP had brought the Sena scurrying back to the BJP in 2014; this time too he might play that role. Even without the Sena, the BJP, with NCP support, will have a comfortable majority of 157 in a house of 288.

With all these woes, suddenly the BJP doesn’t look as invincible as it did a few months ago, appearing to be the only choice of the masses. If a rudderless, leaderless Congress can inflict such a blow on the party, and so many rebels make its official candidates bite the dust, its leadership would do well to keep its ears close to the ground and listen to the distress of the people.

The stock market may be made to jump up or down on His Master’s Voice — and all governments have done this — but farmers’ distress, growing unemployment and the shrinking job market all have a grim story to tell. A five per cent GDP growth rate is only that… five per cent. Juxtapose the BJP’s woes against its triumph in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, where the BJP and Sena had won 41 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra and all the 10 seats in Haryana.

How quickly people’s patronage can slip away the Congress knows only too well. Just imagine the outcome if voters started emulating en masse the ‘aya Ram gaya ram’ syndrome of politicians.

Published on October 29, 2019

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