Old warhorses from various political parties are in the race for the ticket from Karnal parliamentary constituency.
Congress leader Arvind Sharma is representing the constituency for the second consecutive term. Known for maintaining a personal connect with his voters from the districts of Karnal and Panipat, Arvind has never missed a chance to criticise chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda for “fewer” development works in his constituency.
Though Arvind’s bitter relations with Congress leaders, including the party legislators from his parliamentary seat are well known, the party may not afford to field a new face from here.
Arvind had won the 1996 parliamentary elections from Sonepat as an Independent candidate but later joined the Congress.
Local MP’s bête noire and Congress legislator from Gannaur Kuldeep Sharma is seen as a tough contender for the seat.
Kuldeep’s father -- late Chiranji Lal Sharma -- represented Karnal for four consecutive terms from 1980 to 1996. Kuldeep has repeatedly shown his desire to remain politically active from Karnal.
However, Arvind said he had made Karnal his permanent residence and there was no question of contesting from any other constituency.
“I am a mass leader and the obvious choice of the party from Karnal. I enjoy support of all and have no enmity within or outside the party,” says Arvind.
Of the 10 MPs elected from Karnal since 1967 when Haryana was carved out of Punjab, nine winning candidates were Brahmins.
“Punjabi-speaking non-Brahmin community has a considerable number in the constituency but it is surprising that a Punjabi leader has never been elected from here. Owing to the trend, the seat is rightly dubbed as a Brahmin seat,” says a political analyst.
From the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), sitting legislator Narendra Sangwan from Ghraunda and party’s general secretary Brij Sharma are the contenders. While Sangwan had won the 2009 assembly elections for the first time, the 49-year-old Brij had unsuccessfully contested the 1996 assembly elections from Karnal.
From the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) combine, there is a standoff on the seat. The alliance has failed to finalise who would stake claim to the seat. Insiders say HJC chief Kuldeep Bishnoi wanted to contest from Karnal. Bishnoi represents Hisar parliamentary constituency, considered his family’s pet seat. Hisar is dominated by Bishnoi community; his father and three-time chief minister Bhajan Lal and his family have enjoyed the electorate’s confidence for decades here.
Veteran BJP leader and former union minister ID Swami is among the frontrunners. A retired IAS officer, Swami had won the Karnal seat in 1996 and 1999.
Another BJP leader Maratha Virender Varma has also staked his claim to the seat. In the 2009 parliamentary election, Varma had contested on the BSP ticket and secured more votes than veteran BJP candidate Swami. Swami had finished third and Varma is largely banking on his last performance.
The bureaucrat-turned-politician Varma is a prominent leader of the Ror community, which has a significant presence in the Karnal constituency. He had merged his Ekta Shakti Party with the BJP in December 2012 in the presence of the then BJP national president Nitin Gadkari. Though he repeatedly contested elections, Varma has failed to register a victory. BJP leaders from the Punjabi-speaking community are also lobbying hard to get the seat for their community.
The Aam Aadmi Party had recently invited applications from individuals keen to contest the elections. Paramjit Singh, state secretary of AAP, who belongs to Karnal, is seen as a potential candidate. But he is rarely seen locally in the party activities.