Naveen Jindal aims for third term in Kurukshetra in a tough contest in the backdrop of farmer's ire - Hindustan Times
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Naveen Jindal aims for third term in Kurukshetra in a tough contest in the backdrop of farmer's ire

May 24, 2024 02:59 AM IST

Supported by prominent BJP leaders and spiritual guru Dhirendra Shastri, Jindal’s campaign faces challenges from AAP's Sushil Gupta and INLD's Abhay Chautala

The sun was beating down on the dusty roads and the humble shops selling sundries along National Highway 44 in Kurukshetra at around 11 am this Tuesday morning.

Haryana chief minister Nayab Singh Saini with BJP LS candidate from Kurukshetra Naveen Jindal during the election campaign in Kaithal on Tuesday. (HT Photo) PREMIUM
Haryana chief minister Nayab Singh Saini with BJP LS candidate from Kurukshetra Naveen Jindal during the election campaign in Kaithal on Tuesday. (HT Photo)

At Arora Sweet House on the service road, off the heated highway in Kurukshetra’s Shahbad, shopkeepers were eagerly waiting with garlands and boxes of laddoos in their hands.

As the campaign caravan approached, the sounds of drums and roars of “Naveen Jindal Zindabad” reverberated. Party workers hurriedly distributed bottles of chilled ‘jeera’ soda and water among the crowd to give them some notional relief from the heat and for patiently waiting to welcome the candidate.

Soon after, surrounded by his personal security staff, publicity team and a sea of party cadre, 54-year-old Naveen Jindal, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from the Kurukshetra Lok Sabha seat, went from shop to shop on foot, met shopkeepers and mingled with the crowd in the narrow lanes of the Hanuman Mandir market in Shahabad.

With Krishan Bedi, who was political secretary to former chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, by his side, Jindal was introduced to the merchants of the market. He visited a few shops and exchanged pleasantries as local residents sprinkled flowers on Jindal, which is a symbol of a warm welcome.

“The whole market blessed us and as a mark of support, several of them joined the road show that turned into ‘shobha yatra’ at this market. Krishan Bedi ensured that everything went smoothly,” Jindal said at the end of his road show.

“I’m committed to developing Kurukshetra as a world-class tourism destination, particularly in spiritual tourism. I know we can achieve this as Haryana is way ahead of other states,” Jindal told HT before heading out to lead another roadshow in the Pehowa assembly segment.

Jindal in Kurukshetra

This was Jindal's first public event in the Shahbad assembly segment on Tuesday. The Kurukshetra seat is significant because the outgoing MP, Nayab Saini, is the chief minister of Haryana. Jindal himself won twice from the seat (2004 and 2009) on a Congress ticket. His late father and noted industrialist, OP Jindal represented the seat once.

Suresh Kumar, a resident of Kurukshetra, said that the work that Jindal did during his tenure as parliamentarian is still remembered by the locals.

“Jindal and a trust named after his father organised several health camps which provided a new lease of life to the poor and the elderly. Many got their eyes operated on, limb surgery and others. People would send them wedding invitations at his Mohan Nagar residence and even if the family could not attend, his aides would take ‘shagun’ and gifts for them. The locals haven’t forgotten this,” Kumar said.

Eyeing a third term in Kurukshetra, Jindal has entered the poll fray after a decade. When asked about how his supporters reacted after he was named the candidate, Jindal said: “My old supporters eagerly joined my campaign. At least 60-70% of my present supporters were with me during my earlier tenure. Moreover, BJP is a much-disciplined organization and has a strong party cadre.”

The Kurukshetra seat covers the whole of Kurukshetra and Kaithal districts along with the Radaur assembly segment of Yamunanagar.

BJP’s star campaigners for the seat have been Prime Minister Narendra Modi, national BJP president JP Nadda, defence minister Rajnath Singh, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, and his Uttarakhand counterpart Pushkar Singh Dhami.

“What the PM said or for that matter Nadda ji or Yogi ji said has put a fresh energy in the party cadre. They are very inspired,” Jindal said when asked about the rallies.

As the electioneering hits peak, Jindal has also been backed by the Hindu spiritual guru, Dhirendra Shastri aka Bageshwar Dham. Popular for being vocal on national and religious issues, Shastri, during his address to his followers, praised Jindal for his efforts for the nation, while he was attending the ‘katha’ or religious sermon with Haryana minister of state and Thanesar MLA Subhash Sudha on Monday, it was learnt.

Ravi Battan, the Kurukshetra BJP chief, said people see Jindal as a social worker rather than a politician.

“People of Kurukshetra remember him for his social service in the field of health, agriculture, women empowerment and social welfare. He was active in Parliament and worked on policies that no lawmaker even thought about, while on the other side is a party (AAP) that has no base in Haryana and the grand-old Congress seems absent in a state that they ruled twice,” the leader said.

But on the ground, the BJP nominee is facing a fierce battle on two fronts – from Sushil Gupta, the only Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate in Haryana along with INLD’s secretary general Abhay Chautala are also in the fray. Jindal has to contend with the farmer's ire against the BJP in the state, which originated in the farmers' protests of 2020-21.

Kushal Pal, a political analyst, and principal of Indira Gandhi National College in Kurukshetra’s Ladwa, said that there is a tough contest on cards for all the candidates.

“Though the whole election depends on how many votes Chautala gets, the contest seems to be between BJP and AAP/INDIA bloc. No doubt, the sea of BJP bigwigs has campaigned in the region, but there is no such wave in favour of any party. Shatri’s entry in Kurukshetra also shows that there is a tough contest for the BJP,” Pal said.

Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Charuni, a farm union leader who is a native of Kurukshetra, is supporting Chautala, who had resigned from the Haryana assembly in protest against the now scrapped three farm laws.

Tijender Singh Khalsa, Kaithal district president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Sir Chhotu Ram) believes anger is not limited to the Centre's treatment of the farmers in 2020, but is also caused due by the death of 21-year-old Subhkaran Singh amid the protests at the Khanauri border in February. Khalsa was among those who led the protest against Jindal when his cavalcade was blocked in Kaithal’s Siwan tehsil last month.

However, Jindal believes otherwise. “There is no discontent among the farmers. I don’t see any recently and can’t say about the past. Tell me if you see any. Even if there is somewhere it is only politically motivated. Farmers largely are happy and the government has rolled out several schemes for their welfare,” he said.

 

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