|HOME | NEWS | ELECTIONS '98 | CAMPAIGN TRAIL|
|February 12, 1998|
Constituency Profile/Karnal, Haryana
Bhajan Lal aims to keep record intact on Brahmin turf
A keen contest is on the cards in Karnal where former Haryana chief minister and state Congress Legislature Party leader Bhajan Lal is seeking his luck. He is in a direct contest with I D Swami of the Haryana Vikas Party-Bharatiya Janata Party combine, and a member of the dissolved Lok Sabha.
Swami won the 1996 election, trouncing his Congress rival Chiranji Lal Sharma by about 192,000 votes.
Besides them, Umed Singh Kashyap, Phoolan Devi's husband, is also in the fray as a Haryana Lok Dal (Rashtriya) nominee. The HLD-R has an electoral alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party in the state.
In all, there are 14 candidates, including Chasam Pal Singh Nain (Janata Dal), Rajinder Singh Verma (SJP-Rashtriya) and Ishwar Chand Aggarwal (Samajwadi Party).
The constituency has acquired the sobriquet of 'Brahmin constituency' because it has returned candidates belonging to this caste in nine out of 11 Lok Sabha elections. There are about 100,000 Brahmin voters out of a 1.1-million electorate.
Bhajan Lal belongs to the Bishnoi caste and, amazingly, has never lost an election since 1968.
Another hassle for Bhajan Lal is the ire of Chiranji Lal Sharma's supporters. Sharma represented the constituency four times and was a strong contender for the Congress ticket. He, however, can ill-afford to upset Bhajan Lal and needs the canny politician's help in neighbouring Kurukshetra where his son Kuldeep is the Congress candidate. Bhajan Lal wields considerable clout in that constituency.
Bhajan Lal dismisses as ''pure Opposition propaganda'' the allegation that he has an understanding with HLD-R president and former chief minister Om Parkash Chautala. His detractors claim the HLD-R deliberately fielded a "weak candidate'' (Umed Singh) to make things easy for Bhajan Lal.
As a quid pro quo, they say, Bhajan Lal helped Chautala's son Ajay in Bhiwani by getting the Congress to nominate Ranbir Singh Mahindra, a political lightweight. Mahindra is Haryana Chief Minister Bansi Lal's elder son; his younger son, Surinder Singh, is the Bhiwani MP and Haryana Vikas Party candidate.
The HVP-BJP campaign in favour of Swami, a retired Indian Administrative Service officer, is yet to gain momentum. While the Brahmins are divided in their support for Swami, many voters charge him with ignoring the constituency during his stint as MP.
Janata Dal nominee Nain expects to pick up some votes as the party wields influence in certain pockets of the constituency, which is spread over nine assembly segments of Karnal and Panipat district. In 1996, Nain secured over 45,000 votes.
INFOTECH | TRAVEL | LIFE/STYLE | FREEDOM | FEEDBACK