He is eyeing the Chief Minister’s post once again once the Haryana Assembly elections are held later this year.

 

Sonipat: The Lok Sabha polls in the Jat-dominated Sonipat parliamentary constituency has become most interesting among all the seats under poll fray in Haryana, with two-time former Chief Minister and Congress veteran Bhupinder Singh Hooda facing a must-win situation. Post the Lok Sabha polls, Hooda is eyeing the Chief Minister’s post once again once the Haryana Assembly elections are held later this year.

Hooda’s three-decade-long political career is facing a tough test in this three-cornered poll battle against BJP’s candidate and incumbent MP, Ramesh Chandra Kaushik, and Jannayak Janta Party (JJP)-Aam Aadmi Party’s consensus candidate, Digvijay Chautala. Chautala is the great grandson of former Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhary Devi Lal. Hooda is arguably the most prominent Jat leader, while Kaushik hails from a Brahmin family.

Radhir Singh, a voter from Sonipat, told The Sunday Guardian: “Hooda is our leader and we are going to vote for him. His family has worked for generations for the development of Haryana. Our support is neither for the Congress or BJP, our support here is for Hooda who comes from the Jat community,”

Ajay Malik, another voter from Sonipat, said: “The current BJP governments at the Centre and state have not only neglect development work in the state, they have also neglect the Jat community. Jats have faced cases during the Jat agitation in 2016 and that has turned the community against the BJP.”

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP’s Ramesh Kaushik had defeated Jagbir Singh Malik, a Jat candidate fielded by the Congress, with an impressive margin. The Jat community has more than five lakh voters in Sonipat constituency which also has a sizable segment of Brahmins and backward caste voters in the area.

However, in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Hooda, despite campaigning hard to transfer the Jat votes to the Congress candidate, failed to do so and the BJP won the poll battle. This time again, as the JJP candidate is gaining ground, political pundits see a split in Jat votes in Sonipat.

Manohar Chaudhry, a teacher and old political worker from Gannor, told The Sunday Guardian: “Jats in Sonipat have an old association with the late Devi Lal and his great grandson is in the poll fray—that is not going to be ignored totally. Devi Lal’s legacy is still alive in certain areas like Gannor, Kailana, Purkhas Udeshipur and Rajlugadhi. The voters in these areas are likely to go with Digvijay Chautala.”

BJP’s Ramesh Kaushik, on the other hand, is banking on the “Modi” factor, besides the non-Jat voters of the constituency. However, he is facing anti-incumbency, which has made things way tougher.

In case there is no divide in the Jat vote, Hooda’s victory is a strong possibility. Also, with Hooda in the fray, the BJP’s road to Parliament has become difficult on this seat. The move of fielding Hooda from Sonipat is being considered as a well-calculated decision of the Congress, which will help in the consolidation of Jat voters in the area.

Kaushik told The Sunday Guardian: “The country is secure only in the hands of Modiji who has taught a lesson to Pakistan. India has made rapid progress in the last five years. This election is all about Modi and I am confident of getting full support from our people.”

On Wednesday, Kaushik reached Baroda (Brahmin Chaupal) for poll campaign around 1 pm. Kaushik sought re-election in the name of Prime Minister Modi. “This election is to elect a nationalist leader and not to pick those who work against the country; every vote you cast will go to Modi and save the future of our country,” Kaushik told the voters.

Kaushik has the backing of many senior leaders, including Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and Manohar Lal Khattar. All these leaders have visited Sonipat to campaign for him.

The Congress managed to win only one seat in Haryana in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the party this time is trying to regain its lost ground in Haryana. In the 2009 elections, the Congress had won nine out of 10 seats in the state.

The electorate of Sonipat had in the past voted out two political heavyweights of Haryana, namely former Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhary Devi Lal and four-time lawmaker Chiranji Lal. Congress is hoping that something similar is not repeated again.

 

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