The Congress party is in for a comprehensive defeat in the by-election to the Hisar Lok Sabha constituency and is likely to end up as a poor third in the three-cornered contest among the Congress, Chautala’s INLD and Haryana Janhit Party-BJP combine, according to a pre-poll survey carried out by LensOnNews. The Hisar Lok Sabha constituency goes to polls on October 13.
The by-election has assumed extraordinary national significance in the wake of the call given by social activist and Gandhian leader, Anna Hazare, to Hisar voters to hand a ‘historic defeat’ to the Congress party for its refusal to support the Jan Lokpal Bill proposed by him. Arvind Kejriwal, a key member of Team Anna, hails from Hisar and has been carrying on high-voltage campaign against the Congress party, distributing handbills and CDs containing Anna’s personal appeal.
Sensing the impending outcome, the national leadership of the Congress seems to have distanced itself from the contest, with PM Manmohan Singh, and party leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi staying away from the campaign.
However, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the Congress chief minister of Haryana has been campaigning in the constituency for the last two weeks in a futile effort to avert the inevitable.
The Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) candidate Kuldeep Bishnoi is the favourite to win the by-election with a comfortable margin. Bishnoi, son of Bhajan Lal whose death resulted in the by-election, is the combined HJC-BJP candidate. According to the LensOnNews poll, Bishnoi is expected to get as much as 50 percent of the popular vote and win the election over second-placed INLD by a margin of over 1.7 lakh votes.
The INLD candidate, Ajay Chautala, is a distant runner-up in the election with an estimated 28 percent of the popular vote. The Congress candidate Jai Prakash is projected to get 17 percent of the vote and is expected to lose the election by a margin of 2.6 lakh votes to the HJC’s Kuldeep Bishnoi.
The LensOnNews pre-poll survey was carried out across six (out of the nine) assembly segments of Hisar parliamentary constituency among a representative cross-sectional sample of 593 voters. The poll was carried out on October 8 and 9. The poll findings carry a margin of error of 5 percent.
Corrupt image fuels Anti-Incumbency
Corruption has evidently become a huge issue in the by-election. Asked which of the major parties in the state – Congress, INLD, HJC and BJP – is the most corrupt, Congress was picked by as many as 62 percent, followed by HJC and INLD with 11 and 9 percent respectively, while the BJP was mentioned by just 3 percent of voters.
It is this corrupt image that seems to be hurting the Congress party the most and fuelling a strong anti-incumbency sentiment against the state and central governments. As many as 80 percent of the sampled voters in Hisar favoured a change of governments both at the state level and at the Centre.
The Anna Impact
Asked if they were aware of Anna Hazare’s call to vote against the Congress party, a whopping 84 percent of voters interviewed answered in the affirmative.
To assess the impact of Anna’s call, non-Congress voters were asked if they would have voted for the Congress party had Anna not issued the ‘Vote against Congress’ call. Twelve percent (1 out of every 8) non-Congress voters answered in the affirmative meaning that they would have voted for the Congress party had Anna not issued the appeal. This is the estimated extent of the swing in vote against Congress that may be attributed to Anna’s appeal.
The LensOnNews poll findings suggest that Bishnoi was assured of a victory due to the strong anti-government sentiment, even without Anna’s appeal. The HJC’s alliance with the BJP had further boosted the prospects of HJC candidate. The intervention of Anna Hazare has only widened Congress party’s margin of defeat and increased its woes.