AAP in Haryana civic polls fray, first big test for Hooda & new-look state Congress

While the Haryana municipal elections scheduled for June 19 is seen as a major test for the Bharatiya Janata Party (JJP), it will be an even bigger test for the leadership team of the newly appointed Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) in a month. The opposition party also has to compete with the Adami Public Party (AAP), which on the back of its victory in the Punjab state elections, is viewing the civil elections as a testing ground ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha and state assembly elections.

Congress, hampered by a weak organizational structure, decided to run in the municipal body elections with its code (the poll date has not yet been announced) but it has not yet been decided on the municipal committee and council elections. “We have decided that we will run for the foundation election on the party’s symbol,” opposition leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda told the Indian Express. “In terms of municipal committees, we will make a decision soon on whether or not to compete for the party symbol.”

Former HPCC chief Kumari Selga was among the leaders of government units who lobbied the party to use its symbol to run in the elections. But despite running a membership campaign last month and announcing a timetable for organizational elections, the party is weak. No such internal elections have taken place in more than six years.

In the last municipal elections held between 2016 and 2018, the BJP was the only national party that ran for a majority of seats using its symbol. Out of the 185 seats contested in seven municipal bodies – Faridabad, Gurugram, Hisar, Karnal, Panipat, Rohtak and Yamunanagar – the Saffron Party won 104 seats while 80 candidates won as independents, and the Indian National Party Lok Dal (INLD) won one.

BJP state chief Om Prakash Dankar said the party was ready to repeat its performance. Dankar said he has been traveling through the provinces for the past few months, meeting with them and strengthening party cadres on the ground. “Elections are a festival and we will celebrate it with full preparations.”

Looking at Congress, he added, “There is no such thing as a challenge for us in the upcoming elections. Instead, Congress is struggling with its own internal challenges. As far as a nihilistic public party is concerned, it has yet to have a ground-level cadre.”

JJP state chief Nishan Singh claimed that the party is ready for the elections. “We are working on a seat-sharing arrangement with the BJP and will compete in the ballot with all our might,” said JJP Youth Leader and Deputy Chief Minister, brother of Dushyant Chautala, Digvijay.

Meanwhile, the AAP has already announced that it will run all municipal elections using its code. “We have already appointed monitors for the municipal bodies,” said Rajya Sabha MP Sushil Gupta in charge of party affairs in the state. For the party led by Arvind Kejriwal, this election is an opportunity to assess its organizational strength ahead of the most important election in 2024 and see if it can keep some votes from Congress.

According to the state election commissioner Danpat Singh, elections will be held on June 19 for 888 dormitories in committees and municipal councils. Of these, 107 are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC), 73 for Scheduled Castes (SC), and 239 are for women. The elections were due to take place in 2021, but could not be held in time due to the Covid-19 pandemic and later due to a civil court petition filed in the Supreme Court.

According to the data of the State Election Commission, the majority of those who won the 2016-2018 municipal elections were businessmen. The percentage of businessmen among the elected candidates in municipal bodies was 42.7 percent, while it was 31.1 percent in municipal councils. Next to business are housewives (28.1 percent in companies and 38.7 percent in councils).

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