Monday, June 24, 2024

Ex-Haryana CM Khattar faces litmus test ahead of double elections in Karnal

PUNJAB NEWS LINE | May 04, 2024 02:05 PM

Karnal: BJP veteran Manohar Lal Khattar, who as the Haryana Chief Minister advocated simultaneous Assembly and general elections in the state, is facing a litmus test in his main support base Karnal, where Assembly bypoll and Lok Sabha elections will be held simultaneously on May 25.

Party insiders say that Khattar not only has to ensure the victory of his 'protege' and successor CM Nayab Saini in the bypoll, but also win his maiden Lok Sabha battle to script BJP's hat-trick in Karnal, which is spread over nine Assembly segments.

The by-election was necessitated after the resignation of Khattar as the Chief Minister on March 13.

An RSS man with a clean image, Khattar, who believes in the principles of ‘Ram Rajya’ to run affairs, has been a popular Chief Minister for two terms and belongs to the Punjabi community in a state whose politics is dominated by Jats.

A day after resigning as the Chief Minister on March 13, he was nominated by the BJP as its Lok Sabha candidate from Karnal.

His Assembly seat fell vacant with his resignation. Now CM Saini is contesting the seat in the bypoll to remain a member of the Assembly for a period of around four months before Haryana goes to the polls.

Khattar, a two-time legislator from Karnal, replaced sitting BJP MP Sanjay Bhatia, who defeated Congress’ Kuldeep Sharma by 656,142 votes in 2019. Bhatia, who secured 70 per cent votes, was the second among the MPs with highest winning margins.

The Congress has pitted its youngest candidate Divyanshu Budhiraja (31), a Punjabi-Khatri and former head of the party's youth wing in Haryana, to take on Khattar (70).

As a student leader, Budhiraja, a close aide of two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda and his MP son, Deepender Hooda, was known for taking on the Khattar government on unemployment and paper leak scams in the Haryana Public Service Commission and the Staff Selection Commission.

Challenging Khattar for a debate, Budhiraja, who this week got bail in a 2018 property defacement case in which he was declared a proclaimed offender, said, “I have got bail. Khattar-ji ‘Ab aap janta ki adalat mein aaye, log faisla karenge’ (Now you come to the people's court, let them decide your future).”

“Together we will fight for the honour of Karnal and defeat the anti-Karnal forces,” added Budhiraja, who was the Haryana NSUI President from 2017 to 2021.

The other candidates in the fray from Karnal are NCP (Sharad Pawar) state unit chief Virender Verma; Jannayak Janta Party’s (JJP) Devender Kadyan, son of former Assembly Speaker and three-time legislator Satbir Kadian; and BSP’s Inderjeet Jalmana.

Verma’s party is part of the INDIA bloc at the national level and has been extended support by the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). He fought his first Lok Sabha elections on a BSP ticket in 2009.

The JJP was formed in December 2018 after a vertical split in the INLD following a feud in the Chautala family.

In 2019, JJP extended support to the BJP after the latter fell short of the majority mark in the Assembly elections. The alliance ended in March after which the JJP leadership said it would field its candidates on all the 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

As per INDIA bloc’s seat-sharing pact, the Congress is contesting nine seats in the state, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is in the fray from Kurukshetra.

The Karnal parliamentary seat comprises nine Assembly segments -- Karnal, Nilokheri, Indri, Assandh and Gharaunda in Karnal district, and Panipat City, Panipat Rural, Israna, and Samalkha in Panipat district.

As per the election office, there are 20,81,560 voters in the Lok Sabha constituency, including 11,86,071 in Karnal and 8,95,489 in Panipat district.

“I attended the meeting of Shakti Kendra heads in Karnal and interacted with the BJP workers. Important issues like maximum voting, speeding up work at the booth level. etc., were discussed with the workers…We will take the BJP to a historic majority,” Khattar was quoted as saying on Friday.

Insisting that the state should go for both Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha polls together in the future to save election expenses, a top state BJP leader told IANS, “The Karnal seat, which incidentally fell vacant with the resignation of Manohar Lal Khattar, can be a trendsetter for future simultaneous elections.”

“Right now, our priority is the formation of a government at the Centre,” said the leader, requesting anonymity, adding, “The lone Vidhan Sabha seat is almost a cakewalk for our Chief Minister as his predecessor (Khattar) has created a people-centric work culture during his two terms."

Polling in Haryana will be held in the sixth phase on May 25, while the results will be out on June 4.

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