Campaign Trail/Bhiwani, Haryana
In their fathers's name
The Bhiwani Lok Sabha contest is not just
another clash of rival candidates. It is a battle for supremacy by
proxy, where the sons of Chief Minister Bansi Lal and former chief
minister Om Parkash Chautala slug it out on behalf of their
Surinder Singh, the nominee for Bansi Lal's Haryana Vikas
Party, faces Ajay Chautala, contesting on a Haryana Lok Dal-Rashtriya
The contest becomes all the more intriguing with presence of Bansi Lal's estranged son, Ranbir Singh Mahindra. Bansi Lal's older son, Mahindra left his father squirming in discomfort by entering the fray as a Congress nominee.
Surinder Singh, aiming to save his seat, describes Ajay
Chautala as an ''outsider'' and lists his father's contributions to developing the backward areas of
Bhiwani, the family's hometown.
Mahindra, in electoral politics for the first time, spits fire against
his younger brother, insisting that Surinder is also an outsider since he lives in Delhi most of the time. However, despite Congress backing, his chances look dim. He was nominated only in the last week of January.
With the battle at a high pitch, the
contenders are mobilising all their resources. Though three
election observers are camping at the local rest house to oversee
the strict implementation of the election code, hundreds of jeeps fitted with loudspeakers whizz around the constituency throughout the day.
The chief minister has been canvassing for his younger son
continuously for several days. The main roads of Bhiwani have been widened
overnight and given a fresh coat of asphalt by the state public
Official circles maintain that the ongoing repair of roads is a
routine matter and that funds were allocated long ago. Election observers
also tend to dismiss queries on the same, saying, ''If you have a specific
instance of an election code violation, tell us.''
Opposition candidates openly charge the HVP of misusing the
state machinery in the constituency. Numerous HVP
flags flutter atop several big buildings. Banners and posters on walls were removed following the intervention of the observers.
An election observer, Sarvesh Kaushal, was
replaced following complaints by the returning officer. Kaushal
is the son-in-law of former chief secretary B S Ojha, who is considered
a close associate of former chief minister Bhajan Lal. The latter has taken
on the role of a mentor for Mahindra.
Irked at the replacement, Mahindra has dashed off a letter to the
President of India, accusing the Election Commission of being biased
Ajay Chautala is banking on the anti-incumbency feeling against Chief
Minister Bansi Lal, whose prohibition policy is opposed by many.
The chief minister is also being targetted for failing failing to fulfil his election promises of providing employment to every young man and developing the Bhiwani region.
An advantage for Surinder Singh is the support from his
party's seven MLAs in the region. His opponents have no such backing.
Ajay Singh stands to benefit if his party's ally, the Bahujan Samaj
Party, succeeds in transferring a section of the Dalit votes in his
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