The nomination of two-time Congress MP and former union minister Kumari Selja to the Rajya Sabha has given a shot in the arm to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from the Ambala (reserved) parliamentary constituency.
With Selja not in the fray, the BJP is hoping that the competition would be less fierce this time, besides banking on the Narendra Modi wave. According to political observers, last-minute tacit alliances by the Congress or the BJP cannot be ruled out as the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are also going to be a factor, at least as vote spoilers in the absence of tie-ups. It will be a multi-cornered contest as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has announced that the party would contest on all 10 seats in Haryana.
The Congress aspirants include Raj Kumar Balmiki, who had contested earlier also, and newly-elected Ambala Municipal Corporation mayor Ramesh Mal, who has the backing of former union minister and MLA Venod Sharma. There are reports that newly-appointed Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) president Ashok Tanwar may shift his constituency from Sirsa to Ambala. With his proximity to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the party would pin hopes on him as he would be acceptable to chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda as well as Selja.
The names of Congress Rajya Sabha member and Selja’s brother-in-law Ishwar Singh and former bureaucrat RK Ranga are also doing the rounds, with Selja openly supporting Singh. For the BJP ticket, ex-MP and former state unit president Rattan Lal Kataria is confident that his 40-year-long career in the party would get him the nod.
Kataria had lost to Selja by around 14,000 votes in the 2009 polls. He had polled the seventh highest number of votes in the state and five MPs, including Bhajan Lal and Shruti Chaudhary, had got less votes then him. Another BJP aspirant is former MP and governor Suraj Bhan’s son-in-law Dayal Singh Pinjori. With a mechanical engineering degree from Kurukshetra University, he was a deputy chief engineer in merchant navy, general manager in the Haryana industries department and a member of the Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) from 1998 to 2004.
Making the contest more interesting, the Bahujan Samaj Party has already named Dr Kapoor Singh as its candidate. The party won in 1998, but it has always eaten into votes of other political majors. It was primarily because of BSP candidate Chander Pal that BJP’s Kataria lost to Selja in 2009. Pal got about 1.9 lakh votes.
Though the INLD is yet to name its candidate, among the frontrunners is former BSP state president Ashok Sherwal, who is currently INLD general secretary and has lost two assembly polls by narrow margins. Balwant Singh Sidhaura, two-time MLA from Sidhaura, besides sitting MLA Rajbir Barara from Mullana assembly seat, who defeated former Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee chief Phool Chand Mullana, are other names doing the rounds.
Also in the fray is the AAP, whose state convener Dr Ashawant said more than 600 applicants had applied for the ticket, adding that their screening was in progress.