Prestige at stake in multi-cornered fight in Haryana polls

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Chandigarh, Oct 4: Prestige is at stake as top guns of Haryana politics including the kin of the three famous 'Lals' battle it out in a multi-cornered contest for the October 15 Assembly elections. Unlike in the recent past, when the fight has mainly been limited between Congress and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), a number of new players have thrown their hats in the ring this time.

However, Congress, BJP and INLD are being seen as the main players, with all three hoping to capture power on their own. BJP for the first time in the history of Haryana, which was carved out as a separate state in 1966, is contesting on all the 90 seats on its own.

Two new parties—- former Union Minister Venod Sharma-led Haryana Jan Chetna Party (HJCP) and Independent MLA Gopal Kanda's Haryana Lokhit Party—-, besides BSP, Haryana Janhit Congress and the Left parties are also trying their luck.

Two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, son of veteran freedom fighter late Chaudhary Ranbir Singh, is seeking re-election from his Garhi Sampla Kiloi constituency in Rohtak district.

Opponents taking on Hooda in Kiloi may be lesser-known politicians, but the Chief Minister faces the challenge to lead Congress to a third-time win in a row in the wake of anti-incumbency and other factors.

While Haryana's famous 'Lals'-— Devi Lal, Bansi Lal and Bhajan Lal-- may have dominated the state's political landscape for decades, years after they are gone, their progenies and kin who are contesting from different seats this time hope to keep the family name flying high.

Devi Lal's son former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and the latter's son Ajay Singh may be out of the contest this time in the wake of their sentencing in the teachers' recruitment scam last year, prestige is at stake for the kin who are in fray fighting from the seats represented by the jailed leaders.

O P Chautala's another son and senior INLD leader Abhay Singh is seeking re-election from Ellenabad Assembly segment. In the absence of the jailed leaders, he faces the tough challenge to lead his party to victory.

Indicating that it is a do-or-die battle for the INLD this time, with the party being out of power for a decade, even O P Chautala, who is out on bail on health grounds, has joined the campaigning.

INLD is contesting on 88 seats while the remaining two seats are being fought by its ally Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal).

First woman from the Devi Lal's clan to enter politics, Naina Singh, wife of Ajay Singh Chautala, has entered the poll arena from her husband's Dabwali segment while her son and Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala is fighting from Uchana Kalan, the seat at present represented by O P Chautala.

Congress has nominated Devi Lal's youngest son Ranjit Singh from Rania constituency. 

Former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal's younger son and HJC President Kuldeep Bishnoi, who has suffered two setbacks this year, has entered the fray from the family's pocket borough Adampur constituency while Bishnoi's wife Renuka Bishnoi is contesting from Hansi.

Bhajan Lal's elder son and former Deputy Chief Minister Chander Mohan is contesting from the Nalwa segment. Bishnoi and Bhajan Lal had floated their own political party the Haryana Janhit Congress in 2007 after parting ways with Congress.

HJC contested its first assembly polls in 2009 and won on six seats including the victory of Bishnoi, but five of the MLAs switched over to the Congress camp. Lal passed away three years back.

Bishnoi won from the Hisar Lok Sabha seat in a bye-election in 2011, the HJC chief who re-contested from the seat in this year's general elections lost to Dushyant Chautala.

In more setback to him, his alliance with BJP did not work and he finally parted ways with the saffron party.

Now, Bishnoi faces perhaps the toughest challenge in his political career in the October 15 polls as his party is contesting on 65 seats while the remaining 25 are being contested by its recent ally HJCP.

The kin of late Bansi Lal, who was considered as the architect of modern Haryana, have again entered the fray to retain hold over their traditional turfs.

Bansi Lal's son and former BCCI President Ranbir Singh Mahendra, daughter-in-law (late Surender Singh's wife) and Haryana Minister Kiran Choudhary and Lal's son-in-law Sombir Singh are contesting as Congress candidates from Badhra, Tosham and Loharu segments in the Bhiwani district.

Among other top guns in the fray are Haryana Cabinet Minister and Congress's national spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala, seeking re-election from Kaithal constituency. BJP's chief ministerial aspirant state unit chief Ram Bilas Sharma, party's spokesman Capt Abhimanyu and former RSS leader Manohar Lal Khattar are in the fray from Mahendergarh, Narnaund (Hisar) and Karnal assembly segments, respectively. Haryana Minister Savitri Jindal of Congress, is seeking re-election from Hisar segment.

Savitri is the wife of former Haryana Minister late O P Jindal and mother of former MP and noted industrialist Naveen Jindal. Another Haryana Minister Capt Ajay Singh Yadav is seeking re-election from his stronghold Rewari assembly segment for a record seventh time.

Contesting an election for the first time from Safidon seat, teacher-turned-politician Vandana Sharma is the younger sister of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Vandana has entered the fray as a BJP candidate.

HJCP chief Venod Sharma, who snapped his four-decade old ties with Congress, is seeking re-election from Ambala City constituency while his wife Shakti Rani is in the fray from Kalka assembly segment.

Gopal Kanda, currently out on bail in connection with the airhostess Geetika Sharma suicide case, is seeking re-election from Sirsa constituency.

PTI

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