The doyens have been forced to take a back seat in an apparent reversal of roles this time. But that is not to even remotely suggest that the contest on this Jat heartland turf lacks intensity.
Former Haryana chief minister and INLD chief, Om Prakash Chautala scraped past then Congress stalwart, Birender Singh by over 600 votes on Singh’s home turf in the 2009 polls. The two combatants, however, have been forced to cool their heels on backstage this time though for different reasons.
While Chautala stands disqualified to contest elections following his sentencing in the JBT teachers’ recruitment scam, Birender Singh who quit the Congress recently to join the BJP has preferred a saffron party nomination for his wife, Prem Lata Singh (64).
Daring Singh in her own backyard is Chautala’s eldest grandson and Lok Sabha MP from Hisar, Dushyant Chautala (26). The younger Chautala can take pride in the fact that he led handsomely from Uchana Kalan segment – by over 50,000 votes during the Lok Sabha polls.
As the two kin slug it out, the chieftains — Chautala and Birender — have taken up the roles of backroom managers. Both have donned the mantle of star campaigners for their kin. The INLD chief who is out on an interim bail on medical grounds undertook a whirlwind tour of Uchana earlier last week, staging roadshows for two successive days. Birender, on the other hand, is personally supervising the poll campaign of his better half.
Prem Lata who arrived from Alewa in the afternoon to campaign in a 2,000-vote strong Jheel village prefers to have an intensive person-to-person interface during her campaign. “I felt that if I embark upon a brisk campaign I will not be able to win over people. I want to hear them out,” says the first-timer as she ambles through the narrow bylanes.
“Chautala’s two-day roadshow will not improve INLD’s prospects. The desertions from INLD ranks are still on,” she says pointing to the stripping of the INLD flag by a Chautala supporter at Jheel village.
Dushyant who, on Sunday, chose to take time off from Uchana to campaign for INLD candidate from Narnaund, however, is not impressed.
“People of Uchana will bless me the way they did in the Lok Sabha election. My grandfather’s roadshows have built the momentum for our victory. What we need is to sustain the momentum. In fact, Uchana will decide the next chief minister of Haryana. My grandmother was supposed to contest from Uchana but could not due to age-related issues. This is Chautala sahib’s seat and I feel honoured that he has reposed faith in me,” he says.
Meanwhile, womenfolk are enamoured by Prem Lata’s presence at Jheel village as she is thronged in every bylane she steps into. “Dushyant was heard ridiculing that the BJP could not find a man in Uchana to contest and gave ticket to a woman. This is preposterous. I would like to ask him that why his mother, Naina Chautala is contesting from Dabwali. Why Chautalas could not find a man to contest,” she quips after settling down for a tete-a-tete with a group of women.
But does Dushyant start with an advantage having led from Uchana in Lok Sabha polls? “There is a big difference in the dynamics of Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls. “Yeh to pugree ki ladai hai. Apne-paraye ki ladai hai. People have realised that Chautalas are outsiders (they are from Sirsa). The illusion has been shattered,” she says.
Prem Lata says the focus of her campaign is on employment opportunities for the youngsters and women issues. “Uchana has suffered in the past five years — be it in terms of development or jobs. Chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda concentrated everything in Rohtak. We stood nowhere. Youth will benefit immensely if the BJP comes to power in Haryana,” she claims.
YOUNG TURK TO DEAL WITH
But right now Prem Lata and the BJP have another youth to deal with. “Where are BJP’s achhe din? Farmers, labourers, common man continue to suffer. Narendra Modi remains Gujarati at heart. The Congress government bowed in the Italian durbar for 10 years. Would you like to have Gujarati supremacy in Haryana for the next five years? Don’t let this happen. Apni pugree ki laaj bachana bhaiyon,” Dushyant tells a motley crowd at a chopal in Narnaund suburb.
The bottle green coloured Toyota Fortuner sports-utility vehicle (SUV) in which he campaigned for the Lok Sabha polls seems to be his lucky charm. “Our target is to oust the Congress from Haryana. That’s why the party fielded me from Uchana,” he says obliquely indicating how each seat counts in the multi-cornered contest.
The MP also questions BJP’s standing by saying that if BJP is really in contest then what’s the need for the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and a battery of their top leaders to run helter skelter in Haryana. “When they repeatedly emphasise as to whether the next government will be run from Tihar jail, it clearly shows they feel threatened from the INLD groundswell,” he says while getting down at Sisai village.
On his contest, the INLD MP says Birender Singh recently commented that he does not compete with junior rivals and hence have fielded his junior teammate.