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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

Hot seat Panchkula: Chander Mohan, Gupta locked in tough battle

Former deputy chief minister slogging for survival, while sitting legislator banking on party’s appeal

cities Updated: Oct 14, 2019 01:09 IST
Vivek Gupta
Vivek Gupta
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Hindustantimes
         

Former Haryana deputy chief minister (CM) Chander Mohan’s return as Congress candidate after a decade has made the poll battle interesting in Haryana’s urbanised Panchkula constituency.

Once seen as political heir to his father and three-time CM Bhajan Lal, the 54-year-old lost his political footing after getting embroiled in the controversy kicked up by his relationship with a woman advocate in 2008 that even forced both to convert to Islam before they separated and he returned to the family fold.

Having contested the Nalwa seat in Hisar in 2014 unsuccessfully from his younger brother Kuldeep Bishnoi’s party Haryana Janhit Congress, which was later merged with Congress, Mohan has been pitted this time against ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sitting legislator and chief whip in BJP government Gian Chand Gupta, 71, who is relying heavily on party appeal for a second straight win.

Though Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) have fielded debutants Yogesh Sharma and Karundeep Chaudhary, respectively, the contest largely appears bipolar between BJP and Congress on ground. 

UPHILL BATTLE

The political turf that Chander Mohan is contesting from is not new to him.

Earlier part of the Kalka constituency, he represented Panchkula for four consecutive terms as Kalka MLA between 1993 and 2009 and still enjoys a good rapport with locals here. As some of the local Congress leaders recalled, he wielded a considerable clout and power during his heydays.

But with his late father Bhajan Lal not around, his past rows still haunt him, and with his younger brother Kuldeep Bishnoi not so strong within the Congress, winning the contest is a do or die situation for his political career.

Icing on the top is the groupism within local Congress unit which made many leaders desert him before the October 21 polls and join the BJP. 

“For any politician, remaining in political hibernation for long and then trying to make a comeback is always difficult,” said Ashutosh Kumar, a professor of political science at Panjab University. “Also, being an inheritor of a political dynasty may be helpful but not sufficient in contemporary India with young people forming the majority of voters. This is why many dynasts and inheritors lost in the last Lok Sabha election everywhere in the country,” he said. 

STAKES EQUALLY HIGH FOR GUPTA

Gupta may be claiming ₹2,000 crore investment in Panchkula during his tenure, but the dumping ground in Sector 23 has still not been shifted, while the trans-Ghaggar sectors and periphery areas are still bereft of basic amenities.  Sector 20 housing societies situated on the other side of the Kalka highway also await better connectivity with the city.

Much of the city’s development has been hanging fire for over two years due to his tiff with Congress mayor Upinder Kaur Ahluwalia. Stray cattle and dogs are a constant menace with no solution in sight.

Though he managed to stay afloat even after many had written him off before ticket distribution, losing the Panchkula seat will mean a permanent eclipse on Gupta’s long political career.

WAR OF WORDS

Referring to Chander Mohan’s past rows, Gupta said, “The entire city knows what he did. It was due to his father’s popularity that he won consecutively from here, otherwise he never had any quality. That legacy exists no more.”

Chander Mohan, however, said by raising these issues, Gupta proved he had nothing else to say. “The last five years of BJP rule pushed Panchkula back 20 years,” he added.

Chander Mohan had released a vision document on Saturday, in which he promised a medical college, a law college and a state-of-the-art Film City for Panchkula besides two-marla plots for the underprivileged.

Gupta took a jibe at him and said, “The vision document is an election stunt. I appeal to the public to ask where he was for the past 15 years. Despite holding the post of deputy CM, he failed to make Panchkula the Paris that his father had once announced.”