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Battle for Hisar gets fierce amid Hazare factor

October 09, 2011 16:46 IST
With three political heavyweights locked in a triangular contest, the battle for Hisar Lok Sabha seat has turned fierce, but ruling Congress worries have increased as it has to fight not only its opponents but also tackle Team Hazare's campaign against it.

Congress has fielded three-time MP from Hisar, Jai Prakash (58). He is pitted against Haryana Janhit Congress's Kuldeep Bishnoi (42) and main opposition Indian National Lok Dal's Ajay Singh Chautala (50).

In all, there are 40 candidates, mostly independents, in the fray for the October 13 bypolls in the parliamentary constituency which has approximately 13.32 lakh voters including 7.29 lakh males.

HJC founder and former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, a veteran non-Jat politician whose death in June necessitated the byelection, had got 2.48 lakh votes in 2009 Lok Sabha polls, with Sampat Singh (now a Congress leader) coming in the number two spot with 2.41 lakh votes and Congress's Jai Prakash finishing third with 2.04 lakh votes.

Ajay, at present MLA from Dabwali in Sirsa district, is son of INLD president and former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala while Bishnoi is hoping to cash on the good image his father late Bhajan Lal has left among the voters here.

HJC president Bishnoi recently weaved an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the saffron party leaders have been campaigning for him.

Even though bypolls normally are not much of a bother for the ruling party, this time the dynamics are different and Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda knows it all too well and has been camping here for the past fortnight canvassing for his party candidate.

With opposition launching scathing attacks on Congress on the corruption front and numerous scams that have rocked the UPA, it is the Anna factor that has added to the party's woes.

Team Anna members have been criss-crossing the constituency distributing Hazare's CDs and holding public meetings urging voters not to vote for the Congress as it has failed to bring Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament.

Team Anna activists Arvind Kejriwal, who hails from here, and Manish Sisodia, asked voters of Hisar to teach the Congress a lesson so that it is forced to accept and pass the Bill.

Kejriwal asked the voters to inflict a "historic defeat" on the Congress and added, "It will be Anna's victory". He also alleged that Congress fears that half of its ministers will land up in jail, which is why it was adopting delaying tactics over the Jan Lokpal Bill.

However, Congress has tried to put up a brave front, with state unit chief Phool Chand Mullana, saying the party was not perturbed by their campaign and people will cast votes because they know only Congress is their well-wisher and can ensure development.

"People will vote for development. Congress government has ensured all round development in the state including in Hisar, where we have spent more funds than any other previous regimes," Hooda says giving figures to support his claim and dismissing opposition charge that his government has discriminated against Hisar.

Hooda says Anna has been "misguided" and the party is not nervous due to team Anna's presence in Hisar. After Haryana was carved out in 1996 from then undivided Punjab, the Hisar seat was won by the Congress on five occasions1967, 1971, 1984, 1991 and 2004.

Jai Prakash or JP as he is popularly known in Hisar first won from here in 1989 as a Janata Dal candidate and second time in 1996 when he was with Bansi Lals Haryana Vikas Party (later merged with Cong).

The constituency has nearly 4.6 lakh Jat voters, 80,000 Brahmins, 36,000 Bishnois, 65,000 Punjabis while Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes constitute a sizeable over 5 lakh votes.

Hooda's prestige is at stake here as he had managed to prevail upon the party high command to name Jai Prakash as the candidate, but fielding JP has come as a setback for Congress General Secretary and senior leader from the state, Birender Singh who had been lobbying for the candidature of his IAS son Brijendra Singh.

Birender is Hooda's known detractor and had blamed his loss to Om Prakash Chautala by a narrow margin from Uchana Kalan in Jind district, part of the Hisar parliamentary constituency, in the 2009 state assembly polls as "sabotage" pointing fingers to his detractors within the party.

Hooda's other detractors include Union Minister Selja and Haryana Minister Kiran Chowdhry, daughter-in-law of late Bansi Lal, whose equations with the Chief Minister are well known.

Whether the faction-ridden state unit manages to keep a united front will be known in the coming days. Congress also has to deal with Mirchpur factor as an aged Dalit and his physically challenged daughter, were burnt alive by a mob in Mirchpur village in April last year.

There had been numerous protests by the Dalits after the incident and they had blamed the Congress government of allegedly not taking stern action against the perpetrators.

Bishnoi, whose five HJC MLAs switched over to the Congress immediately after the October 2009 state assembly polls, has his political future at stake and the longevity of his partys alliance with the BJP is also likely to depend on the poll outcome.

"The Hooda government and the INLD have always discriminated with Hisar region. Except my father, no one cared about this region. Moreover, Ajay Chautala is an outsider while Jai Prakash too does not hail from here. Both the parties have been rocked by corruption and only I enjoy a clean image," Bishnoi claims.

At stake is also INLDs reputation, particularly in the light of the CBI cases facing its top leadership including Ajay. The party reckons itself as the main challenger to Haryana's throne.

A good performance in the polls will also help reassure party cadres of the standing of their top leadership in the light of the charge sheet filed by the CBI against the Chautalas in a disproportionate assets case.

Ajay Chautala accuses Hooda of inequitable distribution of development funds. "During our rule, the entire state was treated as one entity and funds were given as per the needs of the area concerned. Corruption, unemployment, scarcity of power and water still remain core issues," says Ajay.

However, JP, who was once known as the chief of the Green Brigade which formed the backbone of former Prime Minister V P Singh's election campaign in 1989, counters the opposition charge of discrimination with Hisar and quotes from the government figures to contest the claims.

"Kuldeep Bishnoi was MP from Bhiwani (then he was a Cong MP) for five years. Did he spend even one rupee on your village or did he ever meet you in person all these years," JP asks voters during his campaign trail.

"Did it ever occur to you why Ajay Chautala keeps changing his constituency. (last time he contested from Bhiwani unsuccessfully). I have always been with you and contested from here. I wish to serve my people," he says trying to strike a chord with his voters.

Meanwhile, to ensure smooth conduct of the polls, 40 Companies of Central forces would be deployed in Hisar.

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