For the Chautalas, the Ellenabad assembly seat bordering Rajasthan is home. Former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala won the seat by more than 16,000 votes in the 2009 assembly elections and his son Abhay Singh subsequently secured it in a byelection in 2010 by over 6,000 votes after the INLD chief vacated it.
This time round, however, the equation seems to have changed with one of their own challenging the Chautalas. BJP candidate Pawan Beniwal (46), once an aide of Abhay Singh Chautala (49), parted ways only to challenge him on his home ground.
"Beniwal was looking for an excuse to snap ties with us. He is not annoyed with us. Usko chunav ladne ka keeda tha (He was desperate to contest). So he had to find a way to leave," says Abhay Singh.
"He is actually a badmash and indulges in unlawful activities like land grab. I got many an illegally grabbed land vacated and told him that such things bring a bad name to us. This was the opportunity he was looking for to break away from us. In fact, his tau (uncle) Jagdish Chander and aunt Vidya Beniwal, both former INLD MLAs, are still with us," says the INLD leader.
Friends turn foes
Pawan Beniwal, who hails from Darba Kalan in Ellenabad, also recounts his association with the Chautala family. "My aunt had vacated the now abolished Darba Kalan seat for Om Prakash Chautala in 1991. I thought that we are a part of the family. But that was not the case," he says.
So why did he part ways with Abhay Singh? "It is more of a personal thing than political. The Chautalas treat people like their slaves. I cannot be their ghulam. In democracy, there is no place for slavery," he says.
The BJP candidate, who is heavily banking on the visit of BJP national president Amit Shah to propel his campaign, says his electoral plank remains development. "The Chautalas just win and forget the constituency. People are angry with them," he claims.
In the recent Lok Sabha elections, Sirsa INLD candidate Charanjit Singh Rori led by over 19,000 votes from Ellenabad assembly segment.
But will Beniwal, being an insider, hurt the INLD’s prospects in Ellenabad?
Son to Abhay’s rescue
Abhay Singh’s elder son Karan Chautala, who is steering his father’s campaign, says the family shares a special bond with people of the constituency. "Four generations of our family have worked for them. There is no threat from the BJP candidate at all. People are in fact against Pawanji as he has misused our name," says Karan en route Jogewala village. Chautala Junior says, "A major problem of this area is the spread of cancer due to the toxic water coming from Punjab. We want to set up a diagnostic facility here to check this problem."
Division of Cong votes
With the Congress being out of sorts in Ellenabad this time, the INLD and BJP are also eyeing its votebank. "There will be a division of Congress votes. Some will go to the BJP and some to the INLD. This is why some say it will be a tough contest. For someone (Beniwal) starting with a nought and getting even 15,000 votes is a big plus. But my margin will increase with the shifting of Congress votes to the INLD," claims Abhay Chautala.
The Battle Line-up
INLD: Abhay Singh Chautala
BJP: Pawan Beniwal
2009 poll result: Om Prakash Chautala (INLD) won the Ellenabad seat by 16,402 votes in the 2009 general election. Since Chautala vacated Ellenabad after getting elected from Uchana Kalan, his son Abhay Singh won the seat in a bypoll by 6,227 votes.
Total voters: 1.65 lakh
Sikh/Jat Sikh: 13,000
Backward Classes: 34,000
Scheduled Caste: 31,000