Rohtak: Electoral battle could be a make or break for the Hooda family; it will also impact the upcoming assembly polls - Hindustan Times
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Rohtak: Electoral battle could be a make or break for the Hooda family; it will also impact the upcoming assembly polls

BySunil Rahar
May 24, 2024 02:53 AM IST

“If Deepender Hooda wins, his stature in the party will increase significantly and if he loses, BJP’s polarisation strategy will be played in the state polls”

The Rohtak parliamentary seat in Haryana, which is considered former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s and his son Deepender Hooda’s citadel looks set for a close electoral fight on May 25. The former chief minister is making all attempts to wrest the seat from BJP candidate and sitting MP Arvind Sharma, who defeated his son in the previous polls by a slender margin of 7,503 votes.

Congress Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Singh Hooda during a rally in Jhajjar on Sunday. (HT Photo)(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
Congress Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Singh Hooda during a rally in Jhajjar on Sunday. (HT Photo)(HT_PRINT)

The ruling party candidate Sharma is banking on ‘Modi’s guarantee’ – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popular poll slogan -- to defend this seat. The Hooda family is campaigning aggressively as well: For the Hoodas, it is a battle of prestige as the seat was represented by the senior Hooda four times, his father Ranbir Singh Hooda twice and his son Deepender Hooda on three occasions.

The Hooda family has won the seat seven out of nine times between 1991 and 2019 and lost twice in 1999 and 2019.

Both Hooda and his son have said in their speeches that Rohtak’s victory will lay the foundation stone for the next Congress government in Haryana, which will go to polls in October this year.

“ We will form the next government in Haryana and our route will be Rohtak to Chandigarh via Delhi. We are winning this seat comfortably and now it’s a matter of winning margin,” Congress candidate Hooda said in a speech at an election rally.

BJP candidate Sharma countered, saying that ‘Rohtak is the safest seat’ for the Congress party by saying that ‘such perceptions were created by Hooda family in the last poll too and they will face the same results’.

For the 2024 contest, both Hooda and Sharma are locked in a head-to-head contest. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) did not field a candidate for Rohtak while the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) has given a ticket to its youth wing state chief Ravinder Sangwan. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Rajesh Bairagi withdrew his nomination and extended support to Congress candidate Deepender.

BJP top leaders, Hooda family hitting campaign trail

The BJP’s top leadership, including defence minister Rajnath Singh, home minister Amit Shah, the party’s national president JP Nadda and chief ministers of several states have campaigned for Sharma.

The importance of the contest for the Hooda family can be gauged from the fact that many from the family including Hooda’s wife Shweta Mirdha Hooda and his mother Asha Hooda have hit the campaign trail for him.

The 2019 general polls witnessed a major upset when BJP’s Sharma, a surgeon by profession, defeated Hooda by a slender margin of 7,503 votes. Hooda lost the 2019 election despite taking the lead in five of the nine assembly segments.

The Congress candidate lost from Kalanaur, Kosli, Rohtak and Bahadurgarh assembly segments. Hooda’s biggest loss came from the Ahir-dominated Kosli where he lost by about 75,000 votes thus offsetting gains in the segments he led including his family’s pocket borough, Garhi Sampla Kiloi, where he had led by 45,000 votes. The Congress has won the Lok Sabha elections 11 out of 18 times in this Jat-dominated parliamentary seat.

Sharma and the saffron party leadership are campaigning aggressively with a message to their cadre that ‘Deepender can be defeated once more’ by relying on Modi's magic and caste polarisation techniques. The Congress leaders are focusing on ‘bringing Chaudhar’ back to Rohtak Lok Sabha with Deepender’s win from here.

In his election speeches, Hooda has highlighted farmers' issues, protests by women wrestlers and the Agniveer scheme while accusing the BJP government of trying to destroy the rural economy.

“ Haryana is known for Jawan, Kisan and Pahalwan and BJP has attacked all these three sections of the society. We talk about 36 biradari (castes) and work and the BJP is dividing this country on caste and religion basis. We had set up several colleges, ITIs, Polytechnics, and universities and approved Rewari-Jhajjar- Rohtak and Rohtak-Meham-Hansi railway lines but after BJP came to power in 2014, many big projects could not be completed while many others like -Meham airport were moved out of Haryana,” he said.

Hooda said that the BJP MP has failed to extend the metro line from Bahadurgarh, which was constructed during the Congress government.

“The BJP brought the Agniveer scheme, which destroyed the future of Haryana youth and the BJP MP remained mum over this issue. He did not utter words when farmers and wrestlers were sitting on dharna, and I was the only MP from Haryana who raised public issues. Our victory will lay the foundation stone for the Congress government in Haryana,” he added.

He claimed the BJP was forced to replace its chief minister in Haryana.

“ After three independent lawmakers withdrew support from the BJP and extended their support to Congress, it is visible that BJP will be wiped out of the state and Hooda sahib will return to power. We are winning the Rohtak Lok Sabha seat with a thumping margin and Congress will secure victory on the nine seats it is contesting. This time, BJP will be swept in the Congress wave in Haryana,” he said.

Satvinder Singh, a Congress worker and Sarpanch of Assan village in Rohtak, said that the majority of sarpanches in the parliamentary constituency are backing the Congress candidate because of his working style and polite behaviour.

“ The BJP has failed to address public issues and they used batons on every protesting community. The farmers, women wrestlers, sarpanches, government employees and mid-day meal workers bear the same brunt. The BJP is using all methods to polarise this election but now people have become aware of that and ultimately basic amenities are needed instead of chanting Jai Shree Ram. The people will rectify their 2019 Lok Sabha poll mistake and ensure Deepender’s victory,” he added.

Parminder Singh, another Congress worker from Beri in Jhajjar said that the Rohtak parliamentary election is the semi-final for the Hooda family and Deepender’s win will open the doors for the Congress government in Haryana.

“A power plant was set up by the Hooda government at Jharli in the district, extension centre of AIIMS was opened at Badsa, cancer hospital and a boost to infrastructure was ensured during the previous Congress government. During the BJP regime, the entire state was burnt during the 2016 Jat quota agitation due to the government’s failure, no action was taken against former Haryana minister Sandeep Singh in connection with sexual harassment charges levelled by a woman coach and the BJP protected Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh in the women wrestlers’ issue,” he added.

Former Haryana education minister and Jhajjar MLA Geeta Bhukkal said that people are raising issues like drug abuse, rise in the crime rate, the Agniveer scheme, unemployment, women wrestlers protests and farmers’ demonstrations during poll canvassing.

“ Jhajjar, Rewari and Rohtak were known for sending youths to the army but this government has demoralised them by introducing the Agnipath scheme. Two days ago, I went to a village in Jhajjar where three brothers of a united family were selected through the Agnipath scheme and the other youth was selected by the Haryana government,” she said.

“The unemployed youth are moving to other nations in search of work by selling their parental land and many youths are becoming drug-addicted. The people are also discussing that BJP will change the constitution and control all autonomous bodies, if voted to power again,” she added.

BJP candidate Sharma said that farmers' income has increased during the BJP regime.

“The Union government sanctioned 80 crore for renovation of Rohtak, Kosli and Bahadurgarh railway stations and 558 crore were sanctioned in Rohtak and Jhajjar to resolve waterlogging issues. The Hooda family’s dream to become CM will never be fulfilled. After my win, the Hooda family will be wiped out from Haryana politics,” he said.

He further said that the people are fearing that Congress will bring inheritance tax, if voted to power and they will introduce to appease the minority.

On being asked about the farmers’ protest impact, Sharma said, “The real farmers were busy selling their produce in markets and only Congress workers were holding protests in the name of farmers. Our government has procured 14 crops on the minimum support price (MSP) in Haryana and the Union. government is giving 6,000 per year to farmers through PM Nidhi Scheme,” he added.

The political capital of Haryana

Rohtak, known as the political capital of Haryana, is dominated by Jats, covering the entire districts of Rohtak, Jhajjar districts and Rewari's Kosli assembly segment.

Former chief minister Hooda had defeated Devi Lal in three consecutive polls in 1991, 1996, and 1998 from Rohtak and lost to INLD’s political greenhorn Captain Inder Singh in 1999 Lok Sabha polls by a margin of 1.44 lakh votes, said to be because of the impact of the Kargil war.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Hooda bounced back and defeated BJP’s Captain Abhimanyu with a margin of 1.50 lakh votes. A year later, he resigned from this seat after the Congress party made him Haryana chief minister and in the bypoll, his son Deepender, 27, became the youngest MP of the 14th Lok Sabha. He won the next two general polls from here in 2009 and 2014. Deepender’s grandfather, Ranbir Singh had won from the Rohtak seat in Lok Sabha in 1952 and 1957.

The Rohtak parliamentary seats cover nine assembly segments - Meham, Garhi -Sampla-Kiloi, Rohtak, Kalanaur(SC), Bahadurgarh, Badli, Jhajjar (SC), Beri and Kosli in Rewari. There are 6.60 lakh Jat voters in the Rohtak parliamentary seat, Brahmin (1.55 lakh), Punjabi (1.35 lakh), and 3.05 lakh Scheduled Caste voters. The Other Backward Classes (OBC) have five lakh voters, including Ahir (1.75 lakh) and Saini (98,000) voters.

The Congress has seven MLAs from the assembly seats falling in the Rohtak parliamentary seat; BJP has one lawmaker representing Kosli assembly segment and Independent Balraj Kundu is an MLA from Meham, which falls in Rohtak district.

Rohtak-based political commentator Satish Tyagi said that results of the Rohtak Lok Sabha will impact state assembly polls and it’s a litmus test for Modi’s guarantee and Hooda’s popularity in the Jat belt.

“If Deepender wins, Hooda’s stature in the party will increase significantly and if he faces defeat, BJP’s polarisation strategy will be played in the state polls also. The voters of this constituency are outspoken, and they never forgive any politician for betraying their mandate. Devi Lal was the perfect example when he resigned from Rohtak and retained Sikar after becoming Deputy Prime Minister in 1989 and people showed their resentment by defeating him three times against Bhupinder Hooda,” he added.

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