The keenly watched by-election in Hisar has turned into a war of words between Team Anna and the Congress. Though the anti-corruption crusader is not present in Hisar, his posters and 'Main-Anna-Hoon' caps are as visible as the campaign posters of the three main candidates in the election, reports Sahim Salim.
Arvind Kejriwal went as far as saying that those who voted for the Congress were 'desh-drohis.'
Supporters of the veteran activist also distributed CDs containing a 10-minute footage of Anna Hazare asking people to vote against the Congress.
As Hisar gears to vote on Thursday, tensions soared between the Congress and Team Anna. An otherwise ordinary by-election has caught the imagination of political commentators. Some say that this by-election could very well determine the fate of power in Haryana.
The elections were necessitated in June following the death of Bhajan Lal, a three-time chief minister of Haryana. Though there are 40 candidates for the seat, the fight is mainly between three candidates -- Kuldeep Bishnoi of the Haryana Janhit Congress, son of late Bhajan Lal; Ajay Chautala of the Indian National Lok Dal, son of former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala; and three-time former MP Jai Prakash of the Congress.
In addition to the rallies of the candidates, Team Anna has been running a parallel 'anti-Congress rally' in the constituency. Titled 'Anna's Jansampark Abhiyan', Team Anna aides are visiting key areas in the constituency telling people to "vote for anyone but the Congress."
On Monday, local boy Kejriwal along with Bedi and Sisodiya intensified their campaign in six villages, including Barwala, Adampur and Hansi.
There were catchy slogans against the Congress too.
"Congress ke haath, Bhrashtachaar ke saath (Congress' palm -- it's election symbol -- with corruption)," roared Kejriwal. "Ab toh spasht hain, Congress party bhrasht hain (It's clear now, Congress is corrupt)," roared Sisodiya.
Though Kiran Bedi never took the name of the Congress directly, Sisodaya and Kejriwal minced no words when asking people not to vote for the grand old party.
"You all are familiar with farming. I say remember you are sending Congress crop to power for the next term and we all know what kind of crop that is. I say don't even put one vote for the Congress. If you get the Congress out of power, it will serve as a warning to all other parties that you are the ones with the power," Sisodaya said, addressing a gathering at Barwala.
"Every one of you should vote but none of the votes should be for the Congress. Since we started our fight to introduce an effective Lokpal Bill, the Congress has only been deceiving us. If the Congress doesn't get even a single vote this time, then they may introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill in the winter session," Kejriwal said.
"He (Anna) has told me that if the Congress doesn't pass the Jan Lokpal Bill in the winter session, he will go on another hunger strike. Anna's life is in your hands. Each vote you cast against the Congress is like a breath for Anna-ji. I am not saying vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party either. There are 40 candidates, vote for any of them except the Congress. If you vote for the Congress, it will be desh-droh," Kejriwal said.
After the session, when rediff.com asked Kejriwal if Team Anna's anti-Congress campaign could be seen as a support for the BJP, Kejriwal said, "Definitely not. We are not against the Congress party. They are in power at the moment and they are the ones who are not passing the bill. If the BJP would have been in power and they did not pass the bill, we would have asked people not to vote for them."
Kiran Bedi told rediff.com, responding to the same question, "There is only one party which has not said anything about the Jan Lokpal Bill and we both know which party that is. We are not against any one party but are against those who are against the Jan Lokpal Bill."
Though the outcome of Hisar by-elections won't have any particular effect on Congress's balance of power in the Lok Sabha, Team Anna can claim moral victory if the party loses.
This can further affect the outcome of upcoming elections in different states, including Uttar Pradesh.