The film dialogue “‘picture abhi baaki hai’ (the drama does not end here)” stands true for the northern state of Haryana this election season. The state is witnessing hectic campaigning for the ten Lok Sabha seats that go to polls on May 25, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state stands reduced to minority, something the party denies.

This politically volatile state is also scheduled to go to state Assembly elections barely four months after the ongoing parliamentary polls. Will the BJP be able to repeat its 2019 performance for the Lok Sabha polls where it had won all the ten seats? It looks unlikely.

But then how much would the Congress be able to extract? Is there any chance of revival of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD)? What happens to the Jannayak Janta Party that had come into existence just before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections now? Will the state provide any space to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the near future? The AAP formed the government in the neighbouring Punjab after a landslide victory in 2022.

In order to understand the political scenario in Haryana it is essential to understand what has happened here in the last one decade. The decade has had Narendra Modi at the Centre and Manohar Lal Khattar in the state. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls the BJP had managed to win all the seven of the ten seats that it had contested at the height of the Modi wave.

The remaining three had been unsuccessfully contested by its ally, Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC). The Congress could manage to win only two while the INLD had won one seat.

In the Assembly polls that followed the BJP came to power in the state for the first time winning 47 of the 90 Assembly seats. This was a major breakthrough for the party as till then it had been the Congress and the INLD that had been the main political powerhouses in the state.

The BJP sprung a surprise when it anointed Khattar, a political face from the Punjabi community, as the new Chief Minister. This was the shift from the powerful Jat community in the state that has almost one fourth of demographic presence.

It was Khattar at the helm all the way for the BJP over the last nine and a half years till March this year when the party in its bid to overcome anti incumbency chose to replace him with Nayab Singh Saini who comes from the numerically larger contingent of the Other Backward Castes (OBCs).

The Khattar regime unravelled on multiple occasions where it suited the designs of the right wing forces, and the BJP in particular. His supporters on the other hand have always tried to counter this by saying that under his leadership ‘official procedures’ concerning a common man became a lot easier.

The unravelling had begun from his anointment itself, when violence had preceded the arrest of Godman Ram Pal in a case of murder in Barwala in November 2014. Alongside, the state had started witnessing an increase in cow vigilantism and hate spewing.

But things reached a different level during the Jat reservation stir of early 2016 where the administration stood paralysed on one side, while the BJP’s Kurukshetra Raj Kumar Saini spewed venom against the Jats on the other. There were also allegations of the Congress and the INLD leaders encouraging Jat violence. The result was the isolation of Jats in the ‘36 Biradari’ (36 communities) social fabric of the state which politically went in favour of the BJP.

The Khattar administration again unravelled on the arrest of another Godman Baba Ram Rahim in August 2017 where violence was witnessed again in Panchkula. Then came the farmers’ movement against the three controversial farm laws where the Khattar government tried everything to suppress and stop the farmers from moving towards the National Capital.

The Central government under Modi was compelled to repeal the three laws. The failure of the administration was once again on display during the communal violence in Nuh.

Replaced just before the Lok Sabha polls, Khattar is the BJP candidate from the Karnal constituency where he is contesting against the Haryana Youth Congress chief Divyanshu Budhiraja.

Sources on the ground say that despite his stature of a seasoned politician and strategist Karnal is no cakewalk for Khattar. The reasons given are that this is his first election as a candidate for Lok Sabha and the constituency goes far beyond his traditional assembly seat of Karnal.

“The BJP is at a loss to explain to the people why he was removed as a chief minister if he was so popular. The BJP candidates in the state including Khattar are once again asking for votes in the name of Modi which is a pointer towards their own performance or credibility,” All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader from the state Inderjit Singh said.

Sources on the ground say that the BJP is highly unlikely to repeat its 2019 performance of winning all the Lok Sabha seats. So what has changed over the last five eventful years?

A major factor at play has been the deepening agrarian crisis and the farmers’ movement. This stands intertwined with the caste dynamics in the rural hinterland. Something that has been grossly under-reported even during the farmers’ movement was the crumbling of the caste polarisation achieved during the Jat reservation stir.

At the height of the farmers’ movement it was the same Jats leading the peasants from various other communities from the front. This was primarily because of their political and social domination but also at play was the increase in the collective political awareness of the masses at large. The movement also saw the women coming out from the shadows of patriarchy which is highly rampant in this state.

At a later stage this phenomenon saw a multiplier effect in the state when the women wrestlers from the state started a protest in Delhi against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the BJP MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh, accusing him of sexual harassment. The women in the rural areas who had participated actively in the farmers’ movement also raised their voice in support of the women wrestlers as well.

It is well known that the youth in Haryana have been attracted towards sports as they see an employment opportunity there. This livelihood concern comes over and above the nationalist narrative which the Bollywood movies and television serials have been trying to build.

Parents have been investing their time and resources in getting their children enrolled in sports academies across the state.The charges against Brij Bhushan were a jolt to the masses. The BJP having fielded his son Karan Bhushan Singh, despite talking big on ‘Nari Shakti’ (women’s empowerment) has added to the anger of the masses. A Delhi Court has ordered framing of charges against Brij Bhushan for sexual harassment and outraging the modesty of women wrestlers.

Alongside, stands the matter pertaining to former Haryana sports minister Sandeep Singh who has reportedly filed a discharge petition in a two year old case of alleged molestation of a coach. Sandeep has reportedly said that he was falsely implicated in the matter. A lot of anger persists among the masses on this issue as well.

Coming back to the farmers’ issues, the BJP candidates are facing a lot of heat from the peasantry. On one side the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) is campaigning against them in the villages as a part of their ‘Punish BJP’ call and on the other the affiliates of the SKM-Non Political, and Kisan Mazdoor Morcha (KMM) that gave the ‘Delhi Chalo’ push in mid February this year in support of the common demands of the peasantry are also giving the BJP candidates a rough time.

Almost on a daily basis there are reports of the farmers confronting the candidates of the BJP and also the JJP that was its ally till March this year before being dumped. The farmers pose difficult questions like why did the candidates not stand with the farmers during the farmers’ movement.

The farmers ask the candidate why they do not come clear on their stand regarding the minimum support price (MSP)? Why did they stand with the Khattar administration when the farmers were subjected to violence during the earlier movement as well as the present Delhi Chalo push? Why did they remain quiet when the women wrestlers from the state were fighting for justice? Why did they remain silent when the Lakhimpur Kheri massacre took place?

There are regular reports about the BJP and the JJP candidates being compelled to leave campaign sites.

Over the last several days, the members of the SKM-Non Political and KMM have been blocking train services between Ambala and Amritsar seeking release of the farmers arrested by the Haryana Police. A large number of farmers have been camping on the Punjab Haryana borders at Shambhu, Khanori, Dabwali and Ratnapura since mid February this year.

The farmers' leaders have been accusing the BJP of making complaints about farmers to the Election Commission, on one hand and arresting the same farmers on the other. They have been questioning whether it is wrong to ask questions to candidates of political parties in a democracy?

It is obvious that if this anger of the peasantry translates into votes it will hugely benefit the Congress and to a little extent the INLD.

Then comes the caste equation typical to this largely agrarian state. Having explained that the Jats along with the Punjabi Jatts account for roughly one fourth of the electorate, the state also has a considerably large chunk of the population falling in the Scheduled Caste category.

The SCs who are around 20 % of the electorate had traditionally stood by the Congress till some years ago but had shifted towards the BJP later to give it a political edge in the last one year. Sources on the ground say that this category has once again started deserting the BJP for the Congress because of various social as well as economic reasons.

The BJP by replacing Khattar with Nayab Singh Saini, an OBC, has tried to salvage its lost ground as the OBCs account for roughly 40% of the electorate. Party detractors claim that the OBC is not a monolith in the state.

Similarly it is being pointed out that there are fissures among the upper caste support base of the party as well as the Rajputs in particular are miffed with the party as is the case in some other states.

The caste factor was well explained and interpreted by Inderjit Singh when he said, “The caste configuration does not necessarily play out according to the popular perception. This is because of the multiple identities of the masses. Along with his caste identity a person can be a farmer, employee, artisan, a Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) worker, Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) or a scheme worker. Similarly caste influence can be expressed in numbers. For example in the case of Jats, the community wields a dominating impact in many spheres.”

The BJP with the baggage of anti incumbency has a lot of firefighting to do in the state on the issues of employment, health and other amenities. Haryana ranks very high on the unemployment scale in the country.

The voters are miffed at the jobs being offered through the Kaushal Rozgar Nigam model in the state that are not regular in nature and pay much less in comparison to the pay scales of regular government employees.

“The working class has also been at the receiving end as many are deprived of the benefits they are supposed to get. On top of this they stand trapped in the politics of Jats and Non Jats that is being propagated in the rural areas.

“And who can forget the anger that is rampant against the Agniveer scheme of recruitment in the defence forces. One easily gets to see this anger among the youth even when you are travelling.

“It needs to be underlined that Haryana is among those states that rank high in contributing manpower to the defence and para military forces alongside Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand,” social activist Kavita Vidrohi of Jan Sangharsh Manch (Haryana) said.

She works in areas around Kurukshetra and Kaithal.

But at the same time the party is banking largely on Modi’s charisma and image. It is playing up the narratives around ‘Vote Jihad’; Uniform Civil Code that was recently brought about by the Pushkar Singh Dhami led BJP government in Uttarakhand, the Ram Mandir alongside the ‘Modi guarantees’. The party is attacking the former Congress CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda posting videos under the tagline “‘Hooda ke kale karname’ (Hooda’s Black Deeds)”.

Khattar is leading the charge in this electoral battle for the Lok Sabha in Haryana. In a recent tweet he said, “The enthusiasm and happiness of the entire area is proof of the fact that it is not me who is fighting this Lok Sabha election, but the people of Karnal themselves who are fighting it on my behalf! I assure you that I will continue to work for you under the leadership of Honourable Modi Ji till my last breath.”

The Congress has passed the baton to Hooda to deliver results. Majority of the candidates fielded by the party are from the Hooda camp. The recent support coming from three independents MLAs who had earlier supported the BJP government has given a major boost to the party in the middle of the campaign for the Lok Sabha.

The Congress candidates have been playing up its manifesto and the promises made therein. Senior party leader Kumari Selja who is contesting on Sirsa seat against former Congress state chief Ashok Tanwar who has been fielded by the BJP said during the course of her campaign in Tohana, “This BJP government has crossed all limits of oppression and exploitation of farmers during its tenure.

“Farmers, labourers, employees, Anganwadi workers, and sarpanches, who demanded their rights during this government's tenure, have been beaten with sticks by the government. It's time to respond to each blow with a vote. It's time for change, time to save the country, democracy, and the Constitution.

“Now, this election is not mine; you have made it your own. It's time for change. The country is wondering what has happened to these BJP leaders. Their self-confidence has disappeared. The BJP forgets that in a democracy, the real power lies with the people, not with the leaders.

“People should abandon the misconception that they are leaders and were born to become leaders.” She added that the voters who have made mistakes twice should not make a third mistake.

The INLD that has been pushed to the political margins is desperately trying to revive and survive in the state. One of its senior most leaders Abhay Chautala is contesting on the Kurukshetra seat against Sushil Gupta of AAP and Naveen Jindal of the BJP.

The INLD is positioning itself against both its traditional foe the Congress, as well as the BJP across the state. Campaigning in Kaithal, Chautala said, “The BJP is seeking votes on Modi's guarantee but its leaders do not tell what they have delivered in the last ten years. Nor do they tell what they would do if the government is formed in the future.

“When the people directly ask which guarantee of Modi they are talking about, the BJP gives only one answer to this that they will create a developed India in 2047. When there was a chance, he sold most of the departments of the country. After the formation of the Modi government, the railways were sold; they sold airports, airlines, banks and insurance companies.”

Terming both the Congress and the BJP as ‘robbers’ and referring to the tall farmer leader Sir Chhotu Ram, he said the innocent farmer should learn to speak and identify the enemy.

The JJP too is struggling to survive as only three of its sitting MLAs can reportedly be seen working for the candidates the party has fielded for the Lok Sabha polls.

Its candidates too are being targeted by the farmers. Party leader and former Dy CM Dushyant Chautala is having a tough time trying to keep his flock together. The party is the butt of jokes at this point of time.

“You must have heard the old Bollywood number ‘Ik dil ke tukde hazaar hue, koi yahan gira ko wahan gira’ (my heart stands broken into a thousand shards scattered here and there). In case of the JJP you just need to replace the word ‘Dil’ (heart) with ‘Dal’ (party) and the rest you can understand very well,” a Rohtak based observer quipped.