Three-time Lok Sabha member Arvind Sharma quit the Congress on Sunday and became the chief ministerial candidate of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The 51-year-old Sharma was elected from Karnal parliamentary segment for two consecutive terms in 2004 and 2009. Earlier, he had won from Jat-dominated Sonepat in 1996 as an independent candidate.
Considered as a leader, who was in constant touch with his voters, Sharma lost to the BJP's novice candidate and owner of a Hindi daily Ashwini Kumar Chopra "Minna" by a margin of nearly 3.60 lakh votes.
While announcing Sharma as the BSP's CM candidate, the party chief Mayawati had called him as a Brahmin leader and wished that a non-Jat leader should lead Haryana to safeguard the interests of other castes and communities.
In a telephonic interview with HT on Friday, Sharma charged the Congress government and its leadership but refrained from naming anyone.
Why you joined the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)?
As an MP, I had always stated that my constituency was neglected in terms of development and the youth were deprived of the employment opportunities. Also, the rights of socially and economically backward were not being protected. Haryana is undergoing acute problem of political corruption and there is no check on corrupt and inactive bureaucracy.
Your supporters blame a section of the Congress leaders for your defeat in the recent parliamentary elections?
I worked with utmost sincerity and raised issues of my constituency at all public platforms. I do not want to blame anyone as there is no mechanism in the Congress to initiate action against those who work against the official candidate of the party during elections. There is no point raking the issue as the Congress lacks discipline and sincere voice is not listened at any level.
Being the CM candidate of the BSP, what will be your priorities?
Party will give voice to the Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes and other economically underprivileged communities who were marginlised in the race of development. Haryana government had a dismal performance in the allotment of free residential plots for the families from the Below Poverty Line (BPL) and SCs.
It is also alleged that Rohtak parliamentarian Deepender Singh Hooda overshadowed you as the Karnal MP as the son of chief minister was often called in as a chief guest for laying foundation stones and inaugurating various public projects in the constituency represented by you?
I do not think so as an MP can be engaged for any public function. I have no issue against Deepnder Singh Hooda. "Shayad meri kismet mein aisa hi likha tha".
From where will you contest the upcoming assembly elections?
It will be decided by the national leadership of the BSP. I have convened a workers meeting in Karnal on August 25 which will be attended by the BSP's Rajya Sabha member Satish Mishra and others.