Caste configurations seem to have played a key role as the Congress finalised its candidates for 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana.
The party has retained its six sitting MPs and fielded new candidates from Ambala, Sonepat, Hisar and Gurgaon. In the 2009 polls, the Congress had won nine seats in the state.
The biggest dilemma was faced by the party in Ambala (SC), Sirsa (SC), Gurgaon — for which the tickets were announced on Tuesday, barely three weeks before the polling day (April 10) — and the Hisar seat, which the Congress had lost to former chief minister and Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) candidate Bhajan Lal in 2009.
With two- time MP from Ambala Kumari Selja getting a safe passage to the Rajya Sabha, the party found it difficult to get a suitable replacement. Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar was learnt to have been keen to contest from Ambala initially, but finally opted for Sirsa, a seat which he won in 2009 by about 35,000 votes.
Left with little choice, the Congress has fielded a Balmiki candidate, Rajkumar Valmiki, from Ambala reserved seat – a constituency which has about 75,000 Balmiki votes and about 2.5 lakh Chamar votes. The latter are unlikely to support Valmiki.
The party faced a greater predicament while deciding the candidate for the Gurgaon seat – vacillating between an Ahir candidate and a Meo-Muslim one initially but later settling for the former. However, even picking an Ahir nominee turned out to be difficult as power minister Capt Ajay Singh Yadav, who was seeking the ticket for his son and former Haryana Youth Congress chief Chiranjeev Rao, backed out, citing health reasons.
The Congress finally picked Bad shahpur MLA Rao Dharampal Singh to take on Congressman-turned-BJP nominee Rao Inderjit Singh and Indian National Lok Dal’s (INLD’s) Meo Muslim choice Zakir Hussain.
Sirsa ultimately became an automatic choice for sitting MP Tanwar.
Having faced a humiliating defeat in 2011 Hisar byelection, the Congress was keen to field a fresh face from the Hisar seat, a Jat by all means, to take on non-Jat candidate Kuldeep Bishnoi. It has fielded Nalwa MLA Sampat Singh from Hisar, a seat having about 5 lakh Jat votes.
With sitting Sonepat MP Jitender Malik opting out this time, CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda pushed for another Malik (a Jat), Gohana MLA Jagbir Malik. “This way, he has also tried to convey a message to the Sonepat voters that he himself may contest from the Gohana seat in the assembly polls scheduled later this year,” said a Rohtak- based Congress leader.