Even after 48 years of Haryana’s creation, its northern region is still struggling for its power share in state politics.
According to political analysts, neither a chief minister nor a politician with pan-Haryana influence has emerged from the northern belt of the state.
Power has remained centralised in south Haryana, with the ministers from the north restricted to their assembly constituencies. The northern region includes the districts of Ambala, Panchkula, Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Karnal and Panipat.
Congress nominee from Kaithal Randeep Singh Surjewala and former Congress leader and Haryana Jan Chetna Party candidate from Ambala City Venod Sharma, both regarded as political heavyweights, have high stakes in the October 15 assembly polls.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Karnal candidate Manohar Lal Khattar and Congress nominee from Panipat City Varinder Shah (better known as Bulle Shah) are among the key leaders contesting the elections for the first time.
A member of the BJP’s national executive, Khattar is being projected as a potential chief minister by his public relations team. His candidature had invited a sharp reaction by the local unit over his ‘outsider’ tag.
Bulle Shah is the younger brother of five-time legislator Balbir Pal Shah. Their father late Hukumat Rai Shah was an influential Punjabi leader from Panipat.
Three-time parliamentarian and Bahujan Samaj Party’s chief ministerial candidate Arvind Sharma is contesting from Yamunanagar as well as Julana segments.
After losing the recent Lok Sabha elections to the BJP’s rookie candidate, media baron Ashwini Kumar Chopra ‘Minna’, Sharma had deserted the party.
Three-time legislator Surjewala, who is also the national spokesman of the Congress, is known for his close association with the party’s central leadership.
Before he quit the Congress, Venod Sharma was a key aide of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Both Surjewala and Venod held important portfolios in the Congress government but political observers opine that these leaders confined themselves to their assembly constituencies.
Another example is veteran Congressman and finance minister Harmohinder Singh Chattha from Pehowa (Kurukshetra), who also had restricted himself to his home constituency.
This time, Chattha’s son Mandip Singh is contesting the polls.
However, Surjewala is credited with bringing ‘unprecedented’ development in his assembly constituency.
Former deputy chief minister and now HJC candidate Chander Mohan was elected as a Congress legislator for five consecutive terms since 1993 from Kalka, but he hardly made any political impact even in his constituency. He has chosen Nalwa constituency in his home district Hisar in a bid to reclaim his political standing.
Prominent Rajput leaders such as four-time legislator Jai Singh Rana, now a Haryana Janhit Congress candidate from Gharaunda in Karnal, have thrived on their clout within their caste.
According to Ranbir Singh, former dean of social sciences, Kurukshetra University, northern Haryana is economically better off than the rest of the state, but it has remained backward in politics.
“Even before Partition and when it was part of joint Punjab, the northern belt of present-day Haryana never produced any important political leader. All important leaders belonged to other areas. Hence, those from the northern region got an extremely restricted share of power,” said Ranbir, an expert on state politics.
However, another political observer said sitting Panipat legislator Balbir Pal Shah was a prominent leader from the region who was subsequently sidelined by the party leadership.
Shah remained the Haryana Congress president (1987-89) and the party general secretary (1978-79 and 1985-86). He was the transport minister in the Bhajan Lal government from 1991 to 1996. However, he was later confined to his constituency, where his family still holds the fort.