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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

Karnal: Caste factor to play major role here

Vishal Joshi, Hindustan Times  Karnal, September 05, 2014
First Published: 10:46 IST(5/9/2014) | Last Updated: 10:48 IST(5/9/2014)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emerged as the most divided house on the issue allotment of ticket for the upcoming assembly elections. Amid strong feelers that a senior BJP leader from Rohtak, Manohar Lal Khattar may be fielded from Karnal, members of the district unit had even unanimously boycotted the saffron party’s ‘Vijay Sankalp Yatra’ that was led by Khattar.

Even public meetings convened by Khattar were not attended by the district leaders.

The BJP Karnal leadership is demanding a local candidate from the district and has also given it in writing to the central leadership.

Political observers said upbeat over the party’s impressive performance in the Karnal parliamentary constituency, where a politically novice candidate of the BJP, Ashwini Kumar Chopra ‘Minna’ won and the party led by nearly 53,000 votes from Karnal assembly segment in the Lok Sabha polls, the local leaders are seeing it as an easy seat.

Political analysts said the caste factor was expected to play a major role in the segment dominated by the Punjabi community.

Presently, the Karnal seat is being represented by Sumita Singh of the Congress who has managed to win two consecutive terms — in 2005 and 2009.

According to sources, the Congress may field Singh from Assandh to woo the Jat and Jat Sikh voters and Karnal may be given to a candidate of her choice.

There are speculations that speaker Kuldeep Sharma may shift from Gannaur in Sonepat and try his luck from Karnal, while former chairman of Improvement Trust, Rakesh Nagpal is also in the race from the Congress side. Sharma remained active here and had also headed Congress’ Karnal unit in the past.

However, most of the BJP ticket claimants are electorally novice and they include state secretary Chander Prakash Kathuria, district president Ashok Sukhija and co-spokesman of the state BJP Jagmohan Anand.

Mayor Renu Bala, who had recently joined the BJP and a known opponent of the sitting MLA, is also a tough contender from Karnal.

While an old warhorse like ex-minister Shashi Pal Mehta is trying his luck from here, former union minister ID Swami is lobbying to get ticket for his son Rajinder Swami.

So far, with Manoj Wadhwa, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) is the only mainstream political party to have announced its candidate from Karnal.

An industrialist, Wadhwa, is deputy mayor of the Karnal municipal corporation and that was his first election.

Kuldeep Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) has recently ended its tie-up with the BJP and found a new ally in exCongressman Venod Sharma’s Haryana Janchetna Party (HJP). Though the new alliance is yet to announce its candidate, there are speculations that Bishnoi’s brother Chander Mohan or Venod Sharma may contest from here.

State head of the traders’ cell of the HJC and a political greenhorn, Tejpal Garg is also in the race.

Those maintaining a close watch on the state politics said two-time Congress legislator Jai Prakash, a prominent Bania leader, may play a central role in Karnal. JP, as the affluent businessman is popularly known, is contesting assembly elections since 1987 and ended up as the runners-up four times from Karnal. In 1987, 1991 and 1996, JP was the Congress candidate and won the election in 1991. In 2000, he contested as an Independent.

In the 2005 elections, Sumita Singh of the Congress defeated JP, an Independent, by nearly 34,000 votes, whereas in the 2009 polls, he gave a tough competition and lost by 3,731 votes as the HJC candidate.

Acknowledging his political following in urban and rural areas of the segment, the HJCHJP alliance may try to woo JP as the prospective candidate of the alliance.

As the three-time parliamentarian Arvind Sharma recently quit the Congress to join the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the party has already announced that it would field candidates on the basis of caste calculations in a given assembly seat. Sharma is being seen as BSP candidate from this urban seat.

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