Locked in a tight triangular contest, BJP eyes maiden winUpdated: Oct 16, 2019 01:02 IST
Pehowa Except for first assembly election in newly carved Haryana in1967, the constituency has remained either with the Congress or the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). In the last three elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) presence in the constituency has been restricted to second position twice.
To make inroads in the Sikh-dominated constituency, the saffron party is betting on the celebrity status of former Indian hockey captain and two-time Olympian Sandeep Singh, on whose life Diljit Dosanjh-starrer Bollywood movie ‘Soorma’ has been made.
Singh, 33, who has resigned from the post of deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in Haryana Police for his electoral debut, is facing a two-way challenge — one from Congress candidate Mandeep Chatha, 46, who is banking heavily on his father four-time MLA Harmohinder Singh’s political legacy, and other from BJP’s dissident Swami Sandeep Onkar, 29, who is also an international shooter.
“There is no triangular contest. It is a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress. And the development that the BJP government has done in the last five years gives me a clear edge over the rival. I am sure that BJP is winning the seat,” said Singh, who addresses every public gathering with ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’.
Singh, who hails from nearby Shahbad town, is banking heavily on the rapport of incumbent chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He never misses an opportunity to include the name of Khattar and Modi in his speeches, assuring the voters that his win will open sports avenues for the kids along with education. “I want to provide a better future to the kids of the area. Sports and education will play an important role on this front, so these are my priorities,” said Singh while addressing a gathering at Seonsar village.
Onkar, who had worked closely with the local BJP cadres in the last couple of years, is getting indirect or direct support from some of the office-bearers of the party’s local unit . “Giving a parachute candidate to the constituency and that too an outsider has pushed the BJP out of contention here. What does he know about the local issues?” said Onkar, who minces no words in bashing the BJP.
“The candidates are talking about the development work they will do once elected. But I have been doing development work in the constituency for the last three years. I worked really hard for the party (BJP) and even visited all the 105 villages twice. Considering my commitment towards public welfare, I was promised a ticket by the party. But I was ditched at the last moment and because of this, the people here are very angry with the BJP. Moreover, the BJP’s general secretary of Pehowa unit is campaigning for me openly and many party workers are helping me from behind the scene,” said Onkar during a road show at Arnecha village.
Family legacy vs outsider tag
Chatha, who made his unsuccessful electoral debut in 2014 and finished third behind INLD and BJP, is eyeing favourable outcome this time. While addressing the voters, he attacks Singh’s last moment entry in the electoral politics and doesn’t hesitate in mentioning his limited knowledge about the electorate and their problems. “He (referring to Sandeep Singh) is a good sportsperson and we all respect him for that. But when it comes to elections, he has no idea about the constituency. I can guarantee you that without reading from the paper handed out to him, he cannot identify a villager,” said Chatha at a public gathering in Murtazapur village.
“The development work in the constituency took place only when Chatha sahab (referring to his father) was a minister between 2005 to 2014. Since then the area has been ignored by the BJP government. The Congress is again forming the government and there will again development work in the area.”
Not ready to give an inch to his opponents, Singh takes the outsider tag in his stride. “Outsider is not an issue here. The love and affection that I am getting is unimaginable. People have added ‘Soorma’ to my name. Moreover, sportspersons belong to the country and cannot be confined to a particular area or constituency. People vote for the candidate’s vision and everyone knows by electing a MLA of the party that is going to rule will bring more development to the area. Everyone knows BJP is repeating in the state.”
During campaigning, Singh does not disappoint anyone for a selfie. Whether the selfies will convert into votes or not, only the time will tell.