Like the previous assembly elections, this time, too, a close and multi-cornered contest is expected in Assandh, part of the Karnal parliamentary constituency.
So far, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have announced Yashveer Rana and Maratha Virender Verma, respectively, as their candidates from this rural constituency.
In its first list, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has again fielded Bakshish Singh Virk from Assandh to woo the Sikh and Punjabi voters, who are present in a large number in the constituency.
The BJP is hoping to cash on its superlative performance in the Lok Sabha polls.
The Congress and the Haryana Janhit Congress-Jan Chetna Party alliance are yet to make an official announcement on their candidates. HJC district president Pawan Shahpur is a key claimant for party ticket from Assandh seat.
Before the 2009 assembly elections, Assandh was a reserve constituency.
Zile Ram Sharma, who contested his first election in 2009, was elected as the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) MLA by a thin margin. Later, he joined the Congress along with four others HJC legislators.
Sharma was embroiled in a controversy after his name cropped up in the alleged abetment to suicide of a former sarpanch of Kambopura village. A CBI court has granted him bail in the same criminal case.
Once a close aide of HJC president Kuldeep Bishnoi, Sharma had defeated independent candidate Raghbir Singh Virk, a Congress rebel, by 3,540 votes in a multi-cornered contest in 2009.
Sharma polled 20,266 votes while Virk got 16,726, followed by another independent, Yash Pal Rana (15,685 votes) and BJP’s Virk got 15,546 votes.
Owing to the criminal charges against the sitting MLA, there are several aspirants for the Congress ticket.
According to sources, ad hoc president of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) Jagdish Singh Jhinda is among the key contenders for ticket from Assandh, the home constituency of the Sikh leader.
“There is a sizeable number of Sikhs in the constituency who have traditionally remained supporters of the INLD. The Congress may try to woo them by fielding Jhinda. As Jhinda played an important role in the formation of a separate gurdwara panel, the HSGMC leader could be fielded as the face of the community from here,” said an analyst. While Sharma is also working hard to get ticket, leaders like Kamal Mann and Pankaj Punia are among others in the race for Congress ticket.
Brijender Singh Mann, son of late Congress leader Tejinder Pal Mann, is also being seen as strong contender for the Congress ticket. A political novice, Mann is close to several Congress leaders in the central and state leadership.
A source close to Mann said he may contest as an independent if the Congress denies him ticket.
In the last parliamentary elections, the BJP got 43,706 votes from Assandh – part of Karnal LS constituency – whereas the INLD candidate secured 39,039 votes.
“BSP’s Verma is set to pose a tough challenge as he wields clout in his Ror community, which has a sizeable number of voters in the constituency. He polled 24,632 votes from Assandh, more than Congress candidate Arvind Sharma, who got 24,526 votes from this assembly segment,” said a political expert.
Bureaucrat-turned-politician Verma is a known turncoat. In the 2009 parliamentary elections, Verma had contested on the BSP ticket and finished second.
Later, he merged his party, Ekta Shakti, with the BJP. After he got feelers that he might not get ticket for the Karnal LS seat, Verma switched loyalties to the BSP but lost in the parliamentary election.