Haryana: All eyes on Karnal as Khattar-Saini in fray - Hindustan Times

Haryana: All eyes on Karnal as Khattar-Saini in fray

By, Karnal
Apr 14, 2024 07:36 AM IST

With the BJP willing to repeat its performance of the 2019 parliamentary elections of winning all 10 seats in the state, all eyes will be on Karnal as the residents will cast their vote on May 25 for both Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections

In a series of unprecedented changes that took place last month in the state government with a break-up from Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) as well, Karnal has turned into a political hotspot in the ongoing general elections.

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With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) willing to repeat its performance of the 2019 parliamentary elections of winning all 10 seats in the state, all eyes will be on Karnal as the residents will cast their vote on May 25 for both Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections.

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For Lok Sabha polls, the party has fielded former chief minister (CM) Manohar Lal Khattar, who resigned as an MLA from Karnal constituency to vacate the seat for his successor and party’s state president Nayab Saini.

Khattar was elected twice to the Haryana Vidhan Sabha from the seat in 2014 and 2019, while the Lok Sabha seat was also represented by the BJP—Ashwini Chopra (2014) and Sanjay Bhatia (2019) both Punjabi faces.

Karnal Lok Sabha seat comprises nine Assembly segments — Karnal, Nilokheri, Indri, Assandh and Gharaunda in Karnal district and Panipat city, Panipat rural, Israna, and Samalkha in Panipat district.

As per the data shared by the district election office (DEO), there are 20,81,560 voters in the Lok Sabha constituency, including 11,86,071 in Karnal and 8,95,489 in Panipat.

Political observers said the Lok Sabha seat has witnessed some intense political rivalries, where heavyweights from different parties have tested the waters.

In 1980 and 1989 both, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj lost Lok Sabha polls, but was later elected to the Rajya Sabha and went on to become first woman CM of Delhi and foreign minister under Prime Minister Narender Modi.

Former CM Bhajan Lal also represented the seat for a year in 1998 but lost to BJP’s ID Swami just a year later. Former Vidhan Sabha speaker Kuldeep Sharma, whose father was an MP for a record four times (1980-1991), lost to Sanjay Bhatia in 2019.

Bhatia had won with a huge margin of 6.56 lakh votes, the second highest in the country after CR Patil of the BJP from Gujarat, who won by 6.89 lakh votes.

While the saffron party is confident of Khattar and Saini’s victory, the absence of Opposition candidates till now has failed to create a buzz.

Accompanied by Saini and Bhatia, Khattar has chaired workers’ meetings in all nine assembly segments in the past weeks, highlighting the tectonic shift in the government and achievements of “double-engine ki sarkaar”.

Last month, Khattar rented a house in Sector 6, Karnal, and has held several meetings at the residence as well as at the party office to expedite the public outreach.

BJP’s district president Yogendra Rana said his party is well-prepared for both elections and workers are on the ground to ensure the victory with a record margin.

According to the seat-sharing agreement of the INDIA bloc, Congress will contest nine of the 10 seats in the state with Kurukshetra going to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Party’s national secretary Virender Rathore, Kuldeep Sharma’s son Chanakya Sharma, Haryana president of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Maratha Virender Verma and former Panipat MLA Varinder Shah, alias Bulle Shah, are eyeing a Lok Sabha ticket from the Congress.

For the Karnal Vidhan Sabha by-election, a Punjabi-dominated seat, former MLA Sumita Singh, BJP leader Manoj Wadhwa and Congress leader Parag Gaba are top contenders.

Sumita Singh said, “I was born and brought up in Karnal and have been an MLA for two terms. If the party gives an opportunity, I’m ready to contest again, even if it be against a sitting chief minister.”

While the INLD and JJP have claimed to contest in both the elections, the stance seems unlike given the political situation.

Political analyst from Rohtak Satish Tyagi is of the opinion that it will be a prestige battle for both the leaders and the BJP will invest full power to ensure victory.

“While it all depends on the Congress candidate, it does not seem an easy walk for both. The BJP is sending out a message for voters that even if Saini is a CM officially, Khattar will be de facto CM or ‘super CM’. They are trying to prove that even after vacating the top post; Khattar has not gone anywhere and is here to ensure that his disciple (Saini) wins and takes his legacy forward,” he said.

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    Bhavey Nagpal is a staff correspondent based at Karnal. He reports on crime, politics, health, railways, highways, and civic affairs for northern Haryana districts.

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