With the declaration of candidates, the battle for key seat Rohtak has started between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), like it has been since the birth of Haryana in 1967.
If the ruling Congress has won the seat six times, including in the 2009 assembly election, then saffron party stalwart Mangel Sein has also wrested it five times (in 1967,1968, 1977, 1982, and 1987). The Congress has pitted advocate Bharat Bhushan Batra, Rohtak legislator for the past five years, against businessman-turned-politician Munish Grover of the BJP.
Grover is in the contest for the fourth time in a row. In 2009, he lost to Batra, who replaced earlier Congress candidate Shadi Lal Batra, by 19,595 votes. However, the BJP state general secretary is keen to avenge his last three defeats by capturing the Congress citadel, where chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has his residence. He takes confidence from the way Punjabis constituents have voted in the last Lok Sabha elections.
Asha Hooda, wife of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had to come out to seek votes for his parliamentarian son, Deepender Singh Hooda, upon sensing the anger among Punjabis, dominant voting community that believed it had been ignored in recruitment.
Hooda, wife fel tneed to campaign
This time, the CM himself has campaigned for Batra, while the CM’s soft-spoken wife, who speaks Punjabi well, has also not shied away from sitting with the voters for tea. In a corporate-style campaigning, Batra and a lot of known faces of the city have gone door to door. Before he enters any shop with folded hands, his supporters give the shopkeeper a report card of his five-year performance as legislator.
As he entered a barber’s shop on the Sonepat road, the shopkeeper, loyal to the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), told him: “Nai samaj kay barray mein aapki party ull julul baatain kehti hai, or phir vote bhi unhi say maangti hai (Your party says weird things about the barber community and then begs it for votes).”
Taking a break from door-to-door campaigning, Batra told HT he sought votes in the name of development and the way he had taken care to get the “councillor-level works” done under personal supervision. “The Rohtak electorate is wise enough to differentiate who is a well wisher and who is an opportunist,” he added.
Trashing the claims of Batra, Grover said during a public meeting at a supporter’s house in Sector 1: “Kis baat ka vikas ka dava, or kis baat ki chaudhar (what development, and why this attitude)? Jab koi MLA kay paas jata hian, to wo ussay CM koti bej deta hain, koti mein JK Malhotra ussay Delhi ka raasta dikha deta hain. Kya CM kay grah jilay ka MLA sirf rubber stamp hai (When anyone goes to the MLA, he directs him to the CM house, where JK Malhotra (political secretary to the CM) directed him to New Delhi. Is the legislator of the home district of the CM a mere rubber stamp)?”
Jat colonies hold the key
Since the Punjabi-dominated colonies have favoured the BJP in the June municipal elections and the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress now eyes votes from the Jat-dominated outer colonies. The Jats have the second highest vote share.
“The Punjabi voters will be divided into both Punjabi candidates, including Batra, while the Jat tilt will decide the winner,” opines retired army subedar Mahatab Singh. However, after Manmohan Goyal, son of former minister from Rohtak, Seth Kishan Dass, joined the BJP, the Aggarwal community has also leaned towards Grover.
Besides, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) and BJP leaders holding forte at state party headquarters here are monitoring everything.
Congress: Bharat Bhushan Batra
BJP: Manish Grover
INLD: Raj Kumar Sharma
BB Batra (Cong) beat Munish Grover (BJP) by 19,595 votes
Total voters 1.72 lakh
Scheduled Caste 29,000