CHANDIGARH: Local issues have taken a backseat in Haryana this election as parties try to focus on castes and communities as they work out the arithmetic that would help them reach the magic figure.
The BJP has centred its campaign on PM Narendra Modi and national security, while the Congress has weaved its narrative around demonetisation and GST in Ambala, Kurukshetra and Karnal constituencies.
In Kurukshetra — the mythical land of the Mahabharata — the BJP is sweating to retain its advantage for their candidate Nayab Saini due to the backlash against sitting MP Raj Kumar Saini for his anti-Jat quota stance. The arithmetic is also stacked against the BJP since the constituency has over four lakh Jats and OBCs along with two lakh Dalits and one and a half lakh Brahmins.
The BJP’s focus is the OBCs, Punjabis and Brahmin votes, knowing Kurukshetra has never elected a Jat. It hopes its OBC candidate would successfully create a divider for the party to sail through with the Congress, INLD and JJP eyeing Jat votes.
Congress’ Nirmal Singh points to damage of industry due to demonetization and GST and the BJP’s penchant to claim votes on the valour of the Army.
Interestingly, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) candidate Arjun Chautala, the fourth-generation leader of the Devi Lal clan, claims to be fighting a “Dharmayuddha”.
In Ambala reserved constituency, Jats again dominate the political narrative. The constituency has seen a direct clash between the Congress and BJP since 1967.
Congress has won this seat 10 times since 1952 and BJP four times. Congress’ Kumari Selja had defeated Rattan Lal Kataria of BJP twice in 2004 and 2009 but in 2014 Kataria won as Selja did not contest. In 1998, this seat was won by Aman Kumar Nagra of the BSP, the only non-Congress and non-BJP candidate, to ever win from here.
Due to the caste combination, the BJP had always enjoyed an advantage with 45% Scheduled Caste voters, Jats, Rajputs, Punjabis, Sikhs and Brahmins making the voter profile almost even. Besides Kataria and Selja, other candidates in the fray are Rampal Balmiki of INLD, Prithvi Raj Singh of AAP and Naresh Saran of BSP.
In Karnal, BJP and Congress are locked in direct combat with BJP’s Sanjay Bhatia, a close confidant of Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar taking on Kuldeep Sharma of the Congress, a former state assembly speaker and confidant of former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Bhatia replaced Ashwani Chopra, the sitting BJP MP and is centred on the emotive issues of national security and terrorism and seeking votes on the clean image of PM Modi and CM Khattar.