CHANDIGARH: BJP-ruled Haryana will go to the polls on all its 10 seats on May 12, the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha election, in a do-or-die battle for Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his predecessor and 'marginalised' Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
The BJP, the Congress and Om Prakash Chautala's Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) are the three main parties in the fray.
This time the state is witnessing an exciting contest just ahead of the Assembly elections.
Ex-Chief Minister Chautala's grandsons -- Arjun and the estranged Dushyant and Digvijay -- are making their debut plunge into electoral politics.
Arjun and Digvijay Chautala are trying their luck from Kurukshetra and Sonipat seats respectively as candidates of the INLD and the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), a breakaway INLD faction.
Hisar is going to witness a triangular clash of dynasts from where Dushyant Chautala, who leads the JJP, is struggling to retain his seat. He is pitted against debutants Bhavya Bishnoi of the Congress and BJP's bureaucrat-turned-politician Brijendra Singh.
While Bhavya, the youngest in the fray, is the grandson of late three-time Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, Brijendra Singh is the son of Congress turncoat and Steel Minister Birender Singh.
In a high-stakes battle, the Hoodas -- father and son -- are in the fray as Congress candidates.
Congress has been on a steady downhill journey since its rout in the state in 2014.
Former Chief Minister Hooda is trying his luck from Sonipat, while son Deepender is in the fray from his home turf Rohtak hoping for a fourth straight victory.
Hooda junior was the only Congress candidate among 10 in the state who managed to win in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP had then polled 34.8 per cent of votes, winning seven seats, while the INLD secured two seats.
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The Khattar government, banking high on its pro-incumbency and the Modi factor, is confident of a remarkable win after winning an Assembly bypoll in Jind in January where Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala finished third after JJP's Digvijay Chautala.
It was the first time the BJP won the Jind seat.
Political experts told IANS that it may be a double whammy for the BJP this time.
First, the BJP government is facing anti-incumbency at the fag end of its tenure. Secondly, the Jat quota remains a major issue in the election where the caste equation has played a determining role in each poll.
The Jats, a land-owning class comprising 30 per cent of the state's population, blame the BJP government for not defending their demand for 10 per cent quota in jobs strongly in the Supreme Court that set aside that provision.
They are believed to be favouring the Congress and the INLD more than the BJP, which is banking on a large OBC community, particularly the Sainis.
"Infighting in the INLD and the Congress camps may somehow help the BJP overcome its loss mainly due to farm distress and lack of jobs," a political observer told IANS.
This fallout will definitely dent the INLD more, the main opposition party in the state which had polled 24.4 per cent votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The impact could be seen largely in Jat-dominated seats of Rohtak, Sonipat, Bhiwani and Hisar, said the observer.
The stakes are high for Bhupinder Hooda in these elections as he is trying to prove that he is still a mass leader and could lead the Congress in the forthcoming Assembly polls.
Hooda was marginalised after the party's humiliating defeat in the October 2014 Assembly polls held under his helm.
In the patriarchal state of Haryana, the 'Deras' also wield considerable influence.
They are led by self-styled godmen Rampal and Gurmeet Ram Rahim, both behind bars, and they have mass followers.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Association of Democratic Reforms, better employment opportunities (44.61 per cent), agricultural loan availability (40.36 per cent) and higher price realisation for farm products (33.80 per cent) are the top three voter priorities in the state.
The other big names in the poll fray are Kumari Selja, who is fighting on the Congress ticket from Ambala, a reserved seat.
BJP's Rao Inderjit Singh is contesting from Gurugram, while former Congress state minister Ajay Yadav is pitted against him.
With assets of Rs 102 crore, INLD's Virender Rana is the richest candidate in the state and is in the fray from Gurugram.
Union minister Krishan Pal Gujjar, who won the Faridabad seat in 2014 with a huge 4.7 lakh margin, is vying to retain the seat. He is facing a challenge from former Congress MP Avtar Singh Bhadana and AAP state chief Navin Jaihind.
The Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party have formed an alliance.
Eleven women (4.9 per cent) of a total of 223 candidates are in the fray among 1.80 crore registered voters, including 83,40,173 women.