With former Haryana chief minister Bhupidner Singh Hooda agreeing to contest the 12 May Lok Sabha polls from Sonipat constituency, he has more on his mind than just the general election — the CM’s post.
Hooda, the sitting Congress legislator from Garhi Sampla-Kiloi in his home district Rohtak, is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from adjoining Sonipat district and is pitted against Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) sitting Member of Parliament Ramesh Chander Kaushik, Digvijay Singh Chautala of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) and Indian National Lok Dal’s Surender Kumar Chhikara. Barring Kaushik, who is a Brahmin, the remaining three belong to the Jat community.
As the Haryana Assembly polls are also just a few months away, Hooda’s gamble to take the electoral plunge this Lok Sabha polls is clearly aimed at proving his popularity and worth before the Congress high command, which had been cold-shouldering him ever since the party was ousted from power in the state in 2014.
Hooda, who belongs with the Jat community, is also aiming to consolidate voters of his community to take on the BJP, which is largely depending on the support of non-Jat voters and division in Jat votes to repeat its 2014 Lok Sabha poll performance. BJP won seven of the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana in 2014.
Jats comprise about 34 per cent of the total voters in Sonipat constituency spread across nine Assembly segments (Ganaur, Rai, Kharkhoda, Sonipat, Gohana, Baroda, Julana, Safidon and Jind) in two districts, Sonipat (six) and Jind (three).
To Hooda’s comfort, five of these nine Assembly segments are held by his loyalist Congress legislators. The district got several key projects during his tenure as CM.
In fact, during the last assembly elections, the Opposition had made the alleged bias an election issue by claiming that old Rohtak district, now comprising Rohtak, Jhajjar and Sonipat districts, were privileged over the other parts of the state in the matter of development and employment.
Hooda is therefore confident of his victory and tells voters the outcome of the Sonipat Lok Sabha seat would decide the fate of the next Assembly polls in the state. He maintains the party that wins the seat would win in the state in the next three months’ time (Assembly polls are due by October).
As his wife belongs to Sonipat, Hooda is confronting allegations of being an “outsider” in the constituency by reminding voters that he was the “son-in-law of Sonipat”.
While Hooda wants Sonipat voters to see the next CM in him, he is also reminding voters how the chaudhar (authority) will come to Sonipat once he won the seat and subsequent Assembly polls.
On the other hand, the supporters of his main rival and BJP candidate Kaushik are projecting him as a certain Union Cabinet minister if he defeated the former CM.
Besides full support of non-Jat voters who bore the brunt of violent Jat agitation for reservation, Kaushik is also banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and performance.
INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala’s grandson and JJP candidate Digvijay Chautala’s entry into the contest threatens to eat into Hooda’s Jat votebank, especially in three constituencies of Jind where Chautala family has considerable influence.
Reports indicate Jats are against weakening Hooda by splitting the votes between Jat candidates and helping the BJP. The JJP’s main concern is to make it tough for the former CM and become an alternative to the Congress in the coming Assembly polls.