Gannaur assembly segment that falls under Sonepat parliamentary constituency is set to witness a close fight between sitting Congress MLA Kuldeep Sharma, who is also the Vidhan Sabha speaker, and his adversary Jitender Singh Malik, a former Congress MP from Sonepat, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party recently.
While the BJP is yet to make a formal announcement on the candidate from Gannaur, the Congress is almost sure to field Sharma. The INLD has fielded Nirmal Chaudhary, who has unsuccessfully contested last three consecutive polls from here.
Sharma is son of Chiranji Lal Sharma, a former minister, while Malik is grandson of Ch Lahiri Singh, who had remained an influential minister in the undivided Punjab.
Chiranji Lal was the first one to be elected from Gannaur (then Kailana) constituency in 1967, while Malik had won from here in 2000 and 2005.
Kuldeep Sharma, an eloquent speaker, who ensured maximum development in his tenure owing to his proximity to chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda won from here in the 2009 assembly polls.
In 2009, Malik, who musters clout in the region owing to his family’s legacy but maintains a reserved public demeanour, was made to contest from Sonepat Lok Sabha seat on Congress ticket, and he remained victorious. However, even before completion of his term in 2014, he made his stand clear to contest from Gannaur seat, despite attempts to persuade by none other than chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
However, when the Congress failed to persuade him, the party fielded then-Gohana MLA Jagbir Singh Malik, who lost the LS poll from Sonepat and was defeated by BJP candidate Ramesh Kaushik.
Malik polled 33,126 votes, while Kaushik got 37,110 votes from Gannaur segment despite high-stake campaigning by chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Gannaur MLA Kuldeep Sharma in favour of party’s old warhorse Jagbir Malik.
In a new development, besides Jitender Singh Malik, former minister Ved Singh Malik from the Congress has switched loyalties to the saffron party to give the Congress a tough time on Gannaur seat, where Jats comprise 32% votes and Brahmins form 12% votes.
Meanwhile, principal opposition party – the Indian National Lok Dal has declared Nirmal Chaudhry as its candidate from Gannaur assembly constituency, while from Haryana Janhit Congress, which took 10% vote share in the 2009 Vidhan Sabha polls, Vikas Tyagi and Vikram Rathi are the frontrunners for ticket.
In 2009 polls, the INLD had secured 35% vote share but Gopal Krishan Tyagi, who contested on party ticket in the last assembly polls from here has recently joined the BJP in the hope of being fielded candidate of saffron party.
Issues to dominate in polls
A Congress spokesperson said incumbent Gannaur legislator Kuldeep Sharma is hoping to do an encore by playing the development card, as some major projects like facelift to Railway Road, development of six parks, construction of an indoor stadium, new vegetable market and administrative block were completed by him.
To inaugurate the newly set up vegetable market, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was invited to witness the development of Gannaur, he added.
A BJP leader said by not honouring the call of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in the recent Lok Sabha poll, electorate has revealed resentment for meting out a step-motherly treatment to Sonepat. Ramesh Kaushik of the BJP trounced Congress’ Jagbir Malik by a margin of 77,360 votes in LS polls.