Youth leader gives Khattar cold sweats in Karnal

Budhiraja continues to attack Khattar on unemployment, which according to him is the biggest issue in Haryana.
Divyanshu Budhiraja (left) and Manohar Lal Khattar
Divyanshu Budhiraja (left) and Manohar Lal KhattarIllustration: Mandar Pardikar

CHANDIGARH : THE Karnal Lok Sabha constituency in Haryana is all set for a tight contest as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran and former Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is pitted against Congress’ young gun Divyanshu Budhiraja.

Both belong to the Punjabi community and are bachelors. While Khattar is from the Nindana village in Rohtak district, Budhiraja is from Gohana in Sonipat district.

A two-time MLA, Khattar, 70, is contesting in a parliamentary election for the first time. After Nayab Singh Saini took over as Haryana chief minister in March, the BJP announced Khattar’s Lok Sabha candidature from Karnal.

For Khattar, a lot is at stake. He not only has to win, but maintain a high victory margin. If sitting BJP MP Sanjay Bhatia created a high benchmark by bagging 70.08% votes, Bhatia’s predecessor Ashwani Kumar Chopra from the same party got 49.84% votes in 2014.

Khattar, known for his simple lifestyle, had a clean image as the chief minister for two consecutive terms since 2014. A Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh man, he also has a reputation for being a hard taskmaster with a no-nonsense approach. His political acumen and organisational skills are his strengths. In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi handpicked him to lead the first BJP government in Haryana.

Incidentally, 30-year-old Budhiraja’s political career too began in 2014 when he was elected the president of the Panjab University Students’ Council. Three years later, in 2017, he was elected the state unit president of the National Students’ Union of India, the student wing of the Congress party. In 2021, he became the president of the Haryana Youth Congress.

Though Budhiraja is new to national politics, he had hogged headlines long back when he publicly confronted Khattar. In 2018, he led a group of students of Panchkula Government College to block the convoy of Khattar, then Haryana chief minister, to protest against unemployment. He was arrested and jailed for three days.

Budhiraja continues to attack Khattar on unemployment, which according to him is the biggest issue in Haryana. “Despite being the chief minister for nine-and-a-half years, Khattar could not ensure development in the state. What can he do for the people of Karnal now? He was removed from the post of CM. I think people will not accept a rejected CM in the constituency,” he said.

Lok Sabha elections to Karnal will be held in the sixth phase on May 25. Other candidates in the fray are Devender Kadian of the Jannayak Janta Party and Virender Maratha of the Nationalist Congress Party. Since 1952, the Congress has won this seat 11 times and the BJP five times.

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