It's hard to imagine a more fiercely contested battle than the one being waged in the Jat heartland of Uchana Kalan assembly segment.
Finance Minister Birender Singh (63) and five-time CM and INLD president Om Prakash Chautala (74) are locked in a whatever-it-takes fight here. The reason: the outcome will not only determine their personal political fortunes, but also be crucial for the prestige of their famous families in the state.
While Singh, grandson of Jat leader Sir Chotu Ram who united his community in pre-Independence days, makes no secret of his ambition of becoming the Chief Minister of the state, Chautala, son of deputy Prime Minister late Devi Lal, wants to have another shot at the top job which he has held for more than six years earlier.
Singh has won five elections here, but cannot afford to lose this time. In case he wins, he would emerge as a strong claimant for Chief Ministership. A defeat would be a big blow to his political career. Similarly, Chautala, who is also contesting from Ellenabad in Sirsa, needs a win badly. A good showing here would be a morale booster for his party which has fared poorly in all its recent outings.
Besides, the INLD leader had also lost the assembly election in adjoining Narwana in 2005 and shifted base here after it was declared a 'reserved constituency' due to delimitation. Singh has been quick to latch on to these - his rival comes from outside and is also contesting from two seats.
The thrust of his campaign, which is running smoothly and drawing response, is Bangar ka chora versus an 'outsider' trying to usurp their rightful share in power. "When the people of this area are scenting ultimate power, Chautala has come with a well-thought political strategy to finish their leadership. Log jaante hain bahari aadmi se koi umeed nahin kar sakte and woh mujhe apna mante hain (People know they can't expect anything from an outsider and they consider me their own)," he says.
He also questions Chautala's wisdom in contesting from two constituencies, describing it as a sign of weakness. "If he was sincere, he would have trusted the people of this area. They are all aware of his lies. I defeated Chautala earlier and will beat him again," he says. The last time the two had faced each other in the Hisar Lok Sabha constituency 25 years ago.
Chautala, on the other hand, is promising to bring jobs, funds and development, which the constituency needs desperately, on his return to power. In speech after speech, the INLD leader, who is also campaigning for his candidates elsewhere, slam the Congress for neglecting the area and plays up its failures. "There is shortage of power and water, but the crime rate and prices are up. The farmers were also suffering. The government, however, kept sleeping throughout. Their development agenda is only on paper," he says before making an appeal to throw out the "corrupt and non-performing" Congress regime.
His supporters tell the voters why go for a CM-hopeful when you can elect the CM directly. The INLD boss is counting on his strong cadre especially in nearby Narwana, which is actively involved here, and his aggressive campaigning. For Singh, it is "Bangar ki Chaudhar" (Bringing power to Jind and adjoining areas) and support from his Sheokand gotra, which alone accounts for roughly 40,000 votes in the constituency.
Besides, the Bharatiya Kisan Union led by Ghasi Ram has come out in his support. Both Singh and Chautala have pulled out all stops, matching each other in money and manpower to emerge on top. And, the intensity of the contest is such that families have been divided and bets are being laid.