Taking the family legacy ahead, both Kuldeep Sharma and Jitender Malik have established their names in the political arena. But now it’s the fight for existence and to see whom does actually Ganaur, a Jat-dominated assembly constituency in Sonepat district, belongs to. For Haryana assembly speaker and Congress candidate, Sharma whose father Chiranji Lal remained MLA from Sonepat and later shifted his base to Karnal to enter Parliament four times, it is time to prove his mettle by wresting the seat for second consecutive time.
For Malik, apart from staking claim to his original place, Ganaur after emerging out of Kailana, a constituency he represented twice in 2000 and 2005 before entering Parliament from Sonepat, it is a fight for self-identity too. Malik quit the Congress in August and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after being denied ticket for Ganaur as the ruling party preferred to field sitting MLA Sharma.
“I opted not to defend Sonepat Lok Sabha seat this time because Lok Sabha is not my cup of tea. I wanted to stay with the people of Ganaur, so I decided to contest the assembly elections. Moreover, I have spent 35% of my total MP Local Area Development Fund in Ganaur only,” said Malik, a third-generation politician. His grandfather, late Lehari Singh remained MLA from the area in the undivided Punjab and later his father, Ranjit Singh represented the area and also held the irrigation portfolio.
“It is not that I quit the Congress because I have been denied ticket. But for quite some time I was thinking of leaving the Congress because Hooda sahib (Bhupinder Singh Hooda) says something else and takes a totally different stance when it comes to fulfilling the commitment,” adds Malik, who won the 2000 assembly election as an Independent and later joined the Congress and is in the BJP fold now.
TIME TO TAKE JIBES
On Saturday (October 4), it was the day of public gatherings in villages on the GanaurPanipat road for Congress candidate Sharma. In making personal visits to some of his loyalists’ places, he got late to kick off his campaigning. Though running three hours behind the schedule, Sharma’s public meetings at the village chopal got a good response and then came to fore his oratory skills to hold the crowd.
“My opponent says that I live 80km from Ganaur. But I ask one thing from you that how many times the one who stays 8km away has visited you in the last five years. For the BJP candidate, I can say only one thing: Dhoondte reh jaoge (You will keep looking for him),” says Sharma while taking a jibe on the inaccessibility of Malik during a public gathering at Kheri Gujjar village.
When asked about the outsider tag, Sharma was quick to offer a rebuttal. “Who says I am an outsider? Our native village is in Sonepat and my father had even represented the area in both undivided Punjab and Haryana Vidhan Sabha. If I used to do legal practice in Karnal that doesn’t mean I am not from this place,” says Sharma while taking a sip of energy drink, Red Bull, to keep him going.
FIGHTING THE TAG OF BEING INACCESSIBLE
Malik faces criticism from his rivals for not being vocal in the state assembly as well as in Parliament about highlighting the problems of his constituency. He is under constant attack for being inaccessible and his opponents even termed him ‘Gunga Pahelwan’.
“Who says I am inaccessible? Had this been an issue, people would never have voted for me in the past. I share a close bond with people and know their problems and they also know that I am there for them 24X7,” said Malik. “I am not media savvy. So, that doesn’t mean I shy away from my responsibility. Our family has a strong bond with people here and they will not let me down. Whatever the opposition feel, they are free to say it,” he adds.
Sharma is seeking votes on the ground of development that took place in the last five years in the constituency under Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government. “Malik also remained your representative during the Congress’ tenure earlier, but at that time hardly any development took place in the area. And now there is no village here, which has not received a decent grant from the state government for development works. So the Congress and Hooda sahib deserve your vote,” says Sharma.
On the other hand, Malik, who was the Congress MP from Sonepat from 2009 to 2014, runs down the ‘development’ claim, saying it was ‘unsystematic development’.
“The development that took place here was not systematic and only some pockets were developed. The important projects like girls’ college and mandi, which will provide lot of job opportunities, never came up and that too despite getting insurance number of times from Hooda sahib,” says Malik. “But if the BJP comes to power the projects will remain my top priority.”