The parliamentary constituency of Sonepat is set to witness a four-cornered contest between the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), with sitting Congress MP Jitender Malik having already opted out, apparently fearing anti-incumbency.
Saffron party nominee Ramesh Kaushik is a Brahmin, but the other top candidates — Gohana MLA Jagbir Malik ( Congress), Padam Dahiya (INLD) and Jai Singh Banwala (AAP) — are all Jat faces who are out to woo around 5 lakh voters of this community.
The seat is particularly important for the Congress as Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda calls Sonepat his second home, with his wife Asha Hooda ( nee Dahiya) hailing from Matindu village in the district. Emphasising the need to maintain his hold on the Jat land, Hooda had on November 10 last year, during his Gohana rally, announced his intention to contest from Gohana in the 2014 assembly polls.
Kaushik, a former Congressman, is banking solely on the ‘Modi wave’ as his candidature from the Jat-dominated seat has raised eyebrows. Pradeep Sangwan, who was the front-runner for the BJP ticket, has already dented the saffron party’s chances after he joined the Congress recently.
Former INLD MLA Padam Dahiya enjoys good rapport and reputation among the electorate, having worked as district president of the party for several years. However, the fact that his party’s top leaders — former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala and his son Ajay Chautala — are in jail has made things tough for him. INLD had last won this seat in 1998.
Despite having Hooda as its star campaigner, the Congress finds itself in a tight spot. Owing to poor planning and delay in the completion of development projects, Sonepat town has suffered over the years.
“The Congress and corruption have become synonymous under the party’s rule in the state. The electorate has decided to hand over reins of power to the INLD,” says Dahiya.
Malik is seeking votes over development. “Vote for the Congress to keep development on track,” he says. The BJP nominee says the electorate should vote for him to bolster the prospects of a new government led by Narendra Modi, while the AAP candidate is promising good governance and corruptionfree society.