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Thursday, July 25, 2024

BJP Signs Up 4-Time Ex-Congress MLA Kiran Choudhary, Secures Key Sweep

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Ex-Congress leaders Kiran Choudhary and Shruti Choudhary joined the BJP.

New Delhi:

The Congress – boosted by strong results in May’s Haryana Lok Sabha election, in which it won five of the state’s 10 seats – faced a setback Wednesday after two senior leaders jumped ship to the BJP.

Kiran Choudhary, a four-time MLA from the Tosham Assembly constituency, and her daughter Shruti, the ex-Bhiwani-Mahendragarh MP, joined the BJP this afternoon in the presence of Union Minister and former Chief Minister ML Khattar and his successor, Nayab Singh Saini.

The BJP’s newest recruits in the state told reporters they would “work tirelessly to ensure the party returns to power in the state for a third time in a row”. Mrs Choudhary declared she took this decision “because Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) has pledged to a developed India by 2047”.

“I have worked a lot with Khattarji. There used to be a lot of bitterness between us… but the way he worked has been my source of inspiration,” she also said, heaping praise on her new colleagues.

The two quit the Congress 24 hours earlier; in a letter to party boss Mallikarjun Kharge, Mrs Choudhary said, “It is most unfortunate that Congress in Haryana is being run as a personal fiefdom (seen as a jibe at ex-Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda) leaving no space for sincere voices… who have been stifled..”

READ | In Jolt To Congress, Haryana MLA And Daughter To Join BJP Today

Sources have said Mrs Choudhary and Ms Choudhary’s jump was because the latter was denied a ticket to contest the Bhiwani-Mahendragarh Lok Sabha seat in this election. The seat was won by Shruti Choudhary in 2009 but has been held by the BJP’s Dharambir Singh Chaudhary since.

Mr Chaudhary won the 2024 election by beating the Congress’ Dan Yadav, who polled nearly twice the votes and vote share Ms Choudhary claimed in the 2014 and 2019 elections.

Importance Of Kiran, Shruti Choudhary To BJP

That Mrs Choudhary and her daughter have joined (a long) list of politicians swapping the Congress for the BJP is big news, but bigger still is the legacy they bring just months before a state election.

Mrs Choudhary is the daughter-in-law of Bansi Lal, a seven-time MLA, three-time MP, and three-time Haryana Chief Minister, and the patriarch of one of the state’s more influential political clans.

The Tosham seat Mrs Choudhary has held for the Congress since 2005 was her father-in-law’s bastion – he won it five times in three decades. More significantly, it has never been won by the BJP.

The BJP will hope that Mrs Choudhary and her family connections will bring not only the Tosham seat but also a sizeable chunk of Jat votes that the party has been courting for several years, but now seems to be slipping through its fingers as a result of the farmers’ ongoing protests against the centre.

The BJP – at the central and state levels – has been facing flak from Jat voters, who are largely farmers, over various issues, including the demand for legal backing for MSP, or minimum support price.

This includes the Sonipat and Rohtak regions, where some villages even refused to vote during the Lok Sabha election. Sonipat and Rohtak have 18 Assembly segments between them, of which the BJP won only four (post-poll ally JJP got one more) in the last state election, while the Congress swept 12. The BJP could have used those 12 seats after finishing six below the majority mark of 46 in that election.

Signing Mrs Choudhary and her family’s political clout among Jats could also help the BJP overcome the loss of the JJP, its former ally in the state government, which was the party’s Jat card.

Congress Bleeding Leaders Again?

For the Congress the loss is acute, particularly since the party will want to build on impressive Lok Sabha election results to push the BJP out of power in the state poll.

Haryana is a key part of the Hindi heartland that is the BJP’s key support base, and a win here, on the heels of Mr Modi losing seats in other states, particularly Uttar Pradesh, will make a big statement.

Mrs Choudhary and Ms Choudhary aren’t the first Haryana leaders to swap sides in recent years.

In August last year Kuldeep Bishnoi and his wife, Renuka, joined the BJP. Mr Khattar, then the Chief Minister, presided over their induction. Mr Bishnoi, a four-time MLA whom the Congress expelled for cross-voting in a Rajya Sabha poll, had also heaped praise on the PM, whom he called “the best”.

READ | “Narendra Modi Best PM”: Kuldeep Bishnoi Joins Haryana BJP

Like Mrs Choudhary, Mr Bishnoi comes from one of the state’s more influential families; he is the son of ex-Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, credited with building the non-Jat bank now largely with the BJP.

And, like Mrs Choudhary, Mr Bishnoi’s capture was key since his family controls the Adampur Assembly seat that the BJP won for the first time – by his son Bhavya – in a 2022 bypoll.

For the BJP, Mrs Choudhary’s signing completes a trifecta; the party now has senior members from each of Haryana’s three biggest political families; the third was Ranjit Singh Chautala, the son of two-time ex-Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhary Devi Lal, who joined in March and is now a state minister.

With input from agencies

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