Hisar bypoll: Hooda has lot at stake

By Jaideep Sarin, IANS,

Chandigarh : He may not be trying to uphold his father’s legacy or have a family member in the fray like the two other main contestants in the by-election to the Hisar Lok Sabha seat, but Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has a lot at stake for the Oct 13 election.

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Faced with formidable opponents like Kuldeep Bishnoi, the son of former chief minister Bhajan Lal whose death led to the seat falling vacant June this year, and Ajay Singh Chautala, the son of former chief minister and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) chief Om Prakash Chautala, Hooda will have to ensure that the Congress nominee, Jai Prakash, emerges victorious in the by-election.

That will however not be easy for Hooda or the ruling Congress in the state.

Jai Prakash, a three-time MP from this seat, has been Hooda’s choice for this election, over nominees of other party leaders.

Powerful Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Birender Singh was lobbying for this ticket for a member of his family but could not get it. Union minister Selja, another leader from the state, too has not been on the best of terms with Hooda in recent times.

Both these leaders and other aspirants for the Hisar ticket could make the going tough for the Congress candidate.

However, Hooda hopes for the best.

“All leaders in the state will work together to ensure victory for the Congress nominee,” he said recently at a meeting.

However, there is a big question mark over the support from these senior leaders to the Hooda camp for the Hisar by-election. Fissures within the Congress leadership have been too obvious in recent days.

Hisar is the only Lok Sabha seat which the Congress could not win in the May 2009 general election. All other nine Lok Sabha seats went to the Congress kitty. Bhajan Lal had won the seat with a margin of less than 7,000 votes with the INLD and Congress trailing him.

With Bishnoi of the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) and Ajay Chautala of INLD in the fray this time, the triangular contest on this seat could be anyone’s game. Both are sitting legislators in the state assembly.

While Bishnoi wants to win the seat to retain the legacy and hold of his father Bhajan Lal, Haryana’s formidable non-Jat leader, Chautala and the INLD could get a boost in political fortunes if they win the seat.

Hooda’s problems are not lessened by the shadow of the Mirchpur incident in which a 70-year-old man and his physically challenged 18-year-old daughter from the Dalit community were burnt alive in mob violence unleashed by the dominant Jat community.

The village in Hisar district hit the headlines in April last year when some people from the dominant upper caste Jat community set fire to a row of houses of Dalit (Balmiki) families.

As many as 150 Dalit families were driven out of the village, about 300 km from Chandigarh, and 18 homes were torched.

The trial of the youths accused of the arson attack was shifted to New Delhi in December last year following directions of the Supreme Court. Nearly 100 Jat youths were arrested following the incident.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])