Ellenabad bypoll a bigger litmus test for Abhay, INLD than BJP-JJP alliance

The Ellenabad constituency in Haryana is set to witness a triangular contest – among INLD, BJP-JJP combine and Congress – during the bypoll scheduled to be held on October 30. While INLD’s Abhay Chautala will fight to save his party’s existence in the Vidhan Sabha, both the BJP and the Congress have also fielded candidates who enjoy significant support in the constituency. The results will be announced on November 2.

Resignation that necessitated the bypoll

On January 27 this year, Abhay Chautala – then the lone MLA of Indian National Lok Dal – drove a tractor to the Haryana Vidhan Sabha and handed over his resignation to Speaker Gian Chand Gupta. Chautala, who represented Ellanabad Assembly constituency, was the first MLA in the 90-member House to resign expressing solidarity with the farmers who have been agitating against the three central agri laws. As per the rules, the bypoll had to be conducted within six months, but it got extended due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Farm agitation factor
It is going to be a tough contest for the ruling dispensation’s candidate as the BJP-JJP alliance is already facing opposition from the farmer community over the three central legislations. Insiders told The Indian Express that nominating Gobind Kanda – brother of Sirsa MLA Gopal Kanda – days after he joined the party was part of the BJP’s strategy, since he enjoys significant support in the constituency. While Abhay Chautala claims that he has the support of farmers as he resigned expressing solidarity with their agitation, Kanda is facing opposition from within the BJP as he is still considered an outsider. The Congress, on the other hand, too had been building their entire campaign around the ongoing farmers’ agitation to woo majority of the rural population of the constituency.
The impact of the farm agitation on the politics in state cane be gauged from the fact that farmers are no letting the ruling alliance members attend political events. Some Independent MLAs had earlier withdrawn their support to the BJP-JJP government over the issue. They include Sombir Sangwan who also resigned from the post of chairman, Haryana Livestock Development Board, and Balraj Kundu.

Litmus test for INLD
For INLD, the bypoll is far more important than the ruling BJP-JJP or the main opposition Congress. The only way for INLD to keep its existence in the Vidhan Sabha is if Abhay Chautala wins this bypoll.
For the BJP, a defeat in the constituency would have an adverse impact on the its image. The ruling party has already lost a bypoll to Congress in Baroda Assembly constituency. Despite fielding Olympian Yogeshwar Dutt, the party lost to Congress’ rookie candidate Indu Raj Narwal. A victory in the Ellenabad would enhance BJP’s numbers to 41.

For Congress,a victory would strengthen its claim that the BJP-JJP combine is losing the people’s mandate. However, a defeat would not impact Congress much as it continues to remain the second largest party in the Vidhan Sabha with 31 MLAs.

The candidates
Ellenabad has traditionally been a stronghold of the Chautala clan. While INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala won from Ellenabad in 2009, his son – Abhay – won the seat three consecutive times – bypoll in 2010, and then in 2014 and 2019 Assembly polls.
BJP nominated Gobind Kanda days after he joined the party. His brother Gopal Kanda represents Sirsa Assembly constituency. The Kanda brothers enjoy significant support in the Sirsa parliamentary constituency, of which Ellenabad Assembly segment is a part.

Congress, on the other hand, has nominated Pawan Beniwal, who had contested from the constituency on a BJP ticket in 2014 and 2019 and lost both times to Abhay Chautala. Recently, Benniwal quit the BJP and joined the Congress. In 2019, while Abhay Chautala got approximately 57,000 votes, Beniwal finished second with about 45,000 votes while Congress’s Bharat Singh Beniwal had got approximately 35,000 votes and JJP’s OP Sihag just over 6,500 votes.

A majority of the voters in Ellenabad constituency stay in villages. The total number of voters in Ellenabad constituency is 1,85,869 – 98,930 male and 86,639 female as per the website of state’s chief electoral officer. Of the total 190 polling stations in the constituency, 166 are in rural areas and 24 in urban areas. In the 2019 assembly polls, Ellenabad had 1,81,021 registered voters. Due to the majority of rural population among the electorate, it is going to be a tough contest for the ruling dispensation’s candidate since the BJP-JJP alliance is already facing immense opposition from the farmer community due to the ongoing agitation against the three central farm legislations.

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