Debutant Nauksham Chaudhary is BJP’s choice in Muslim-dominated Punhana assembly seat of Haryana
The Meo-Muslim-dominated Punhana assembly constituency in Haryana’s Mewat region is all set to witness a keenly-fought contest between a debutante Hindu Dalit woman candidate and four Meo-Muslims.
The BJP, which has never won a seat in the Mewat region, has experimented by fielding a Hindu Scheduled Caste woman candidate, Nauksham Chaudhary (28), a rank outsider.
The Congress has placed its bet on three-time MLA Mohammad Ilyas (64), a turncoat who joined the grand old party during the Lok Sabha polls after quitting the INLD and JJP in quick succession. Sitting MLA Rahish Khan (52), an Independent who had joined the BJP in a hope of getting a party ticket, too, has jumped into the fray, once again as an Independent. The INLD has fielded Subhan Khan (65) while its splinter outfit Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) has fielded Iqbal (64).
The BJP’s move to field Nauksham took many by surprise. The foreign-educated youngster is the daughter of retired Haryana judicial officer Ram Singh Chaudhary and Haryana Civil Service (HCS) officer Ranjit Kaur. She comes from Paima Khera village of Punhana.
So how did she get a BJP ticket? Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said Nauksham made the first move by expressing her desire to join politics. “She was introduced to me during our Jan Ashirwad Yatra. Nauksham said she was keen to serve the people of Punhana,” Khattar said.
The chief minister, who accompanied her during the nomination, said they have taken a chance by fielding her. “Hamara wahan kuch hai to nahi (We have nothing much to show in Punhana). With her I see possibilities. Had we fielded an old hand then our chances would have been bleak. And if we are able to make inroads into Mewat, it will be a breakthrough. The three assembly segments of Mewat region — Punhana, Nuh and Ferozepur Jhirka — were among the 11 assembly segments we had trailed in during the Lok Sabha polls,’’ Khattar explained.
‘Gaon ki laali’
Dressed in a salwar-kameez with her head covered with a dupatta, she repeatedly calls herself ‘Gaon ki laali (beti)’ and promises to rid the constituency of its backwardness if voted to power. “I assure you that the region will see development. We will create employment for all. Rest assured that people will get jobs,” she tells a gathering at Rajpur village. Turning things in Punhana is something she talks of during her public discourse.
Her campaign got a shot in the arm when Congress rebel Ajaz Khan extended support to her after he was substituted by Illyas as the Congress candidate.
Political analysts, however, said that Khan’s support would not make a major dent to Congress and Nauksham faces a tough battle ahead. “Ilyas has greater support among masses,” said Ram Kanwar, a political analyst. He added that the contest was interesting since the BJP had fielded an SC candidate on a general seat.
Nauksham, however, said that she was contesting solely on the basis of merit and caste had no role to play in the constituency. “I am contesting the elections purely on merit basis from a general seat and getting support from all quarters of Mewat,” she said.
Nauksham’s much-experienced rival Mohammed Ilyas holds a rare feat of having won as an MLA from all the three constituencies of Mewat. He won the election from Nuh on a Congress ticket in 1991, from Ferozepur Jhirka on INLD ticket in 2000, and from Punhana in 2009 on INLD ticket.
“BJP says 75 paar. But I don’t see this happening. It is going to be a one-sided win for me. The BJP candidate is a political novice,” said Ilyas.
Nauksham, on the other hand, said that despite being new to politics, she was receiving massive support from the Muslim community. “This is for the first time that people from the Muslim community are supporting the BJP,” she said.
Independent candidate Rahish Khan, meanwhile, is hoping to repeat his 2014 performance. Whatever be the outcome, this certainly would be a memorable poll for Punhana.